NORTHERN INDIANA FOOTBALL HISTORY
The first game involving a high school football team in Northern Indiana was in 1891 when South Bend High played Notre Dame. Notre Dame won 81-0. South Bend played two games in 1892 and lost to Notre Dame again 56-0. South Bend did not field a team again until 1897.
In 1894 the first known contest between two Northern Indiana High School football teams took place in Ligonier between Elkhart and Kendallville, which Kendallville won. Elkhart has fielded as team every year since and according to the best research available, Elkhart has the oldest football history in Northern Indiana.
Football in the early years were not organized contests between schools. The teams had no coaches, uniforms, equipment, playing fields or even officials. Teams usually had players in their 20's who did not even attend school. Using the first contest between Kendallville and Elkhart as an example. Ligonier was chosen as the site because it was in between the two cities and since each team had to catch a train to get there- it was cheaper to play the game there. And usually only 11 or 12 players were on a team due to the costs of transport. Players had to find their own uniforms and equipment.
It was a dangerous game and besides broken bones, head injuries and internal injuries- some players even died. By 1905 there was a nationwide demand for the game to be abolished. And after high profile deaths of players in Kokomo and Columbus, the game did cease to exist in major markets such as Indianapolis, Fort Wayne and Evansville. From 1910-1918 the game was only played in a few areas of the state. Less than a dozen schools in Northern Indiana had high school football during that time.
Due to the worldwide Spanish Influenza in 1918 that killed around 10,000 people and affected 350,000 in Indiana alone, very few games were played. But in 1919 the game started a rebirth state wide and by 1929 there were 100 schools with football. Unfortunately for football in Indiana another game became king during this time and with over 700 high schools playing basketball by 1925- football became the "orphan child" in Indiana for the next 50 years! Instead of extra games and state championship games trying to be set up, the IHSAA instead limited football teams to 10 games and 10 games only. And the season was from September 1 and with non-football schools being allowed to start basketball practice in early October, it was tough to expand high school football in Indiana.
The oldest series still alive today started in 1901 between Elkhart and Mishawaka. The oldest continuous series started in 1931 between Warsaw and Plymouth (the 1st game was in 1924 but the teams did not play in 1930). Lowell and Crown Point have played since the late 1890s' and have played the most games. Unfortunately, the early results from this series have not been found. A rivalries page is up and has all the information regarding rivalries.
What will be listed below are the starting years for the teams in Northern Indiana and news of significance for specific years. In 1918 only a handful of school played football due to the "Spanish influenza" epidemic that swept the country. So I will use 1919 as the starting year for the "modern era" of Northern Indiana Football. The starting years are when teams started to play VARSITY 11-man football.
The following teams were playing football in 1919: (23) Culver Military, Decatur, East Chicago, Elkhart, Fort Wayne, Ft. Wayne Central Catholic, Gary Emerson, Gary Froebel, Garrett, Hammond, Hammond Catholic Central, Howe Military, Huntington, Lowell, Michigan City, Mishawaka, Morocco, Rensselaer, South Bend, Valparaiso, Wabash, Warsaw, Whiting.
1920: (24) Bluffton.
1921: (25) Goshen.
1922: (28) Columbia City, Ft. Wayne South Side, Kendallville (Fort Wayne known as Central).
1923: (30) Auburn, LaPorte.
1924: (33) Crown Point, Hammond Tech, Plymouth.
1925: (32) -Valparaiso. Statewide: 86
1926: (33) Rochester. Ft. Wayne South & Crown Point suspended by IHSAA.
1927: (37) East Chicago Roosevelt, Ft. Wayne North Side, Gary Horace Mann, Hobart (East Chicago High known as Washington) . First year for Northern Indiana and Northeastern Indiana Conferences.
1928: (38) Gary Lew Wallace.
1929: (40) Gary Roosevelt, Valparaiso. Statewide: 100
1930: (41) South Bend Riley (South Bend known as Central). Columbia City suspended by IHSAA.
1931-32: no change
1933: (43) Hammond Clark, St. Hedwige (changed to South Bend Catholic in 1938).
1934: (43) Griffith -Rochester.
1935: (45) Gary Toleston, South Bend Washington.
1936-38: no change
1939: (46) South Bend Central Catholic
1940: (47) South Bend Adams. Hobart suspended by IHSAA. IHSAA limits season to 10 games.
1941: no change
1942: (48) Chesterton. IHSAA admitted Negro and Catholic schools.
1943: (47) -Chesterton.
1944: no change
1945: (49) Gary Wirt, New Haven. Statewide: 118
1946: (50) Merrillville (Hammond Catholic Central becomes Bishop Noll). IHSAA moves start of practice to Aug. 15 and the start of the season to Sep. 1.
1947: (53) East Gary, Ft. Wayne Concordia Lutheran, Woodrow Wilson.
1948: (54) North Judson
1949: (56) Dyer Central, Gary Edison, Knox. -Woodrow Wilson.
1950: (59) Nappanee, Portage, Rochester.
1951: no change
1952: (59) Hammond Morton -SB Central Catholic (merges with South Bend Catholic).
1953: (61) Kendallville, South Bend St. Joseph's, Washington-Clay -South Bend Catholic.
1954: no change
1955: (63) Jimtown, New Carlisle. Statewide: 200
1956: (64) Calumet
1957: (65) Bremen
1958: (68) Highland, Penn, River Forest.
1959: (69) Angola. IHSAA allows Jamborees not to count against 10 game limit.
1960: (73) Chesterton, Elmhurst, Ft. Wayne Bishop Luers, Gary Andrean.
1961: (79) Berne, Concord, Manchester, North Liberty, Rolling Prairie, Walkerton. Statewide: 231
1962: (82) Geneva, Hammond Gavit, Woodlan.
1963: no change (Washington-Clay becomes South Bend Clay)
1964: (84) Greene Twp., Triton.
1965: (94) Churubusco, Eastside, Ft. Wayne Bishop Dwenger, Ft. Wayne Snider, Fremont, Lakeland, LaVille, Mishawaka Marian, Prairie Heights, South Bend Jackson, South Bend LaSalle. -Greene Twp.
1966: (99) Adams Central, DeMotte, East Noble, Glenn, Lake Central, Leo, Munster, South Adams, South Central, Wheatfield. -Berne, Dyer Central, Geneva, Kendallville, Walkerton.
1967: (103) Bellmont, DeKalb, Hamilton, North Newton, Norwell, Wakarusa, West Noble. -Auburn, Decatur, Morocco. Statewide: 300
1968: (108) Carroll (Allen), Gary West Side, Hanover Central, Heritage, New Prairie, Wawasee, West Central. -Gary Edison, New Carlisle.
1969: (108) Caston, Fairfield, NorthWood, Winamac. -Gary Froebel, Gary Toleston, Nappanee, Wakarusa.
1970: (107) Homestead, Kankakee Valley. -DeMotte, South Bend Central, Wheatfield.
1971: (111) Ft. Wayne Northrop, Ft. Wayne Wayne, Michigan City Rogers (Michigan City now called Elston), Northridge, Southern Wells. -Ft. Wayne Central.
1972: (110) Elkhart Memorial (Elkhart now called Elkhart Central). -Ft. Wayne Central Catholic, Hanover Central
1973: (113) Central Noble, Harding, Whitko. First year for IHSAA class tourney. Statewide: 320
1974: no change (Huntington now called Huntington North)
1975: (113) Tippecanoe Valley. -South Bend Jackson
1976: (114) Culver Community. (East Gary changed to Lake Station Edison)
1977-79: no change
1980: (113) -Hammond Tech.
1981: (111) - Gary Emerson, North Liberty.
1982-84: no change
1985: (110) - Howe Military. First year for IHSAA 5 class open tourney. Statewide: 312
1986: (108) East Chicago Central. - EC Roosevelt, EC Washington, Hamilton.
1987-1994: no change
1995: (107) Michigan City. - Michigan City Elston, Michigan City Rogers.
1996-1999: no change
2000: (108) Wheeler
2001- no change
2002: (107) - South Bend LaSalle
2003- no change
2004: (106) - Gary Mann
2005-06- no change
2007: (107)- Bowman Academy
2008- no change
2009: (106) - Gary Wirt
2010: (106)- Boone Grove, Elmhurst
2011: (106)- Harding, Howe Military
2012: (106)- no change
2013: (106)- no change. IHSAA adds a 6th class to tourney. Statewide: 321
2014: (106)- Hanover Central, Gary Wallace
2015: (105)- Howe Military