NECC coaching experience
Jim Hummer, Fremont: 23rd season
Monte Mawhorter, West Noble: 19th season
Andy Thomas, Angola: 18th season
Chris DePew, Garrett: 17th season
Bob Miller, Fairfield: 16th season
Keith Thompson, Lakeland: 13th season
Greg Moe, Central Noble: 10th season
South Side at Wayne, 6 p.m.
Woodlan at Leo, 6 p.m.
Bishop Dwenger at Carroll, 7 p.m.
Bishop Luers at North Side, 7 p.m.
Concordia at East Noble, 7 p.m.
Northrop at Huntington North, 7 p.m.
Snider at Homestead, 7 p.m.
Garrett at Columbia City, 7 p.m.
New Haven at Angola, 7 p.m.
Bluffton at Norwell, 7 p.m.
Eastside at DeKalb, 7 p.m.
Jay County at Bellmont, 7 p.m.
Central Noble at Adams Central, 7 p.m.
Heritage at Churubusco, 7 p.m.
South Adams at Blackford, 7 p.m.
Union City at Southern Wells, 7 p.m.
South Bend Riley at West Noble, 7 p.m.
Mishawaka Marian at Wawasee, 7 p.m.
Warsaw at Tippecanoe Valley, 7 p.m.
Prairie Heights at Whitko, 7 p.m.
Osceola Grace at Fremont, 10 a.m.
When surveying the area football coaching landscape, conferences typically have two to three coaches with at least of decade of experience – with one exception.
In the NECC, seven of the 10 football programs are led by coaches entering at least their 10th season. Fremont's Jim Hummer leads the league as he's entering his 23rd year as coach. He has also coached at DeKalb, Eastside and Greencastle.
Keith Thompson's 13 years at Lakeland actually makes him the least-experienced coach in the five-school large-school division.
“I think when it comes down to it, small schools and small communities are a lot more fun to coach,” Hummer said. “You have a lot more community support that makes it fun to coach, that's why you see guys stick around at those schools. We may not have a lot of (Division I) athletes, but the competition and the coaching is pretty remarkable in our conference.”
Hummer's Eagles will host Osceola Grace for a scrimmage at 10 a.m. Saturday, but most other area teams, including the rest of the NECC, will get their first taste of hitting another team tonight.
For several NECC coaches, the chance to coach at or near where they grew up keeps them there.
West Noble's Monte Mawhorter, the NECC large-school division's longest-tenured coach at 19 years, attended neighboring Central Noble, while Fairfield's Bob Miller and Garrett's Chris DePew both guide the programs at their alma maters.
In DePew's case, he actually followed the reverse path of many coaches, moving from a larger school to a smaller one.
In his 11 years at East Noble, DePew won 77 games, including a run to the Class 4A state title game in 2003 before moving back home to Garrett in 2012.
“Maybe it's a testament to the schools and the athletic programs at those places that they are places where people want to stay,” DePew said. “The smaller schools are a little more community-minded; they're usually one school, one community places.”
While Greg Moe returns for his second season at Central Noble this fall, he's entering his 10th year overall as a coach, spending eight seasons (1989-97) at Garrett. His new offensive coordinator this fall, Trevor Tipton, spent 20 seasons guiding the Cougars.
“You have two ball coaches that have been doing it for a long time,” said Churubusco coach Paul Sade, who is in his fifth season. “That's a pretty awesome position to be in.
“You pull Tipton out of retirement, that gets people's dads in Albion fired up. They won championships under Tipton.”
Recruiting kids to play in the program may come easier when you're coaching in your hometown. That visibility can have some drawbacks, however.
“There's a lot more complications when everybody knows who you are,” Sade said. “When you coach somebody's son who you played with, maybe you play cards with them on Thursdays and then their kid's not playing that much on Fridays. You go to the grocery, or you go to church, and you have to talk to those people.”
Still, the familiarity that accompanies a lengthy tenure at one school builds bonds that transcend the sport.
“After you've been around awhile, you start seeing kids whose parents you've coached,” Mawhorter said. “In the younger levels, you can look at them and it's neat to see the parents coming back through.”