I remember the night like it was yesterday. One of the greatest upsets in Region football history.
On the night of Nov. 14, 1997, two great football teams lined up after a tense tussle. Hobart senior Craig Osika had tears streaming down his red cheeks, while several overjoyed Griffith players congratulated Osika and wished him the best at Indiana University.
Griffith 35, Hobart 21 is what the scoreboard screamed on that Class 4A regional night. Panthers coach Russ Radtke pulled out a phone book of plays that the Brickies had run all season. It was all black and gold at The Boneyard that night.
This crazy scouting method allowed Griffith to beat its nemesis and go on and win the state championship like a runaway freight train.
Probably the greatest upset in Region folklore occurred two years earlier at the Brickie Bowl. In the Mud Bowl, as it still is called, Hobart and Hall of Fame coach Don Howell road the arc in the 14-13 win.
Griffith was the best team in Indiana that autumn. But the Bricks found a way to survive on the wettest field these eyes have ever seen.
This rivalry never gets old. And we get another chapter of it Friday night at The Brickyard. Radtke’s New Prairie team rolls into town as the No. 1 team in Class 4A. Osika, now coaching his alma mater, runs the No. 3 team in the state.
It’s deja vu all over again in one of the most tense contests I’ve covered throughout the years.
Long before the IHSAA’s Sportsmanship kick began, which I fully endorse and believe in, the Radtke-Hobart rivalry of the 1990's was rated R.
There was sincere hatred years ago. Yes, there was respect, but the players did not like each other. The fan dislike of the other was also extremely loud. The amps in this tune went all the way to 11.
It was one more. One louder.
In Week 2 of that 1997 season, Hobart beat Griffith 21-6 giving Howell and Tom Kerr their 300th career win together. That celebration was insane. The only one louder was a couple of months later when the Panthers returned the favor.
Radtke drove off Broad Street in 2011 and has built one of the state’s great powers at New Prairie.
Hobart and the Cougars have only played once in the last 35 years. And yep, there was money on the line in that one, too. In 2016, Hobart beat Radtke 35-14 to win its first sectional championship in 19 years. Yep, the ‘97 season when Radtke beat the Bricks was the program’s last sectional title before Ryan Turley, with Osika as an assistant, snapped the streak.
This time there won’t be fans watching from tree branches like the old days, but if there were trees around Hobart’s new stadium, there would likely be fans climbing the bark and barking at Radtke.
The place will be packed and whoever wins, in my humble opinion, will have a good shot to get to Lucas Oil Stadium. How could it be any different? It’s Radtke vs. Hobart.
The steel-toed boots and thermoses will parade in to watch a great game. How close is this one on paper? Both the Brickies and the Cougars beat Andrean this season, New Prairie in Week 2 and Hobart in Week 5.
And the score was identical -- 33-10.
I was at the Hobart-Andrean game and was very impressed by the Brickies. Hobart’s defense has two straight shutouts and five zeros on the season. In typical fashion for a team coached by Radtke, his team is averaging 43.17 points a game, which is 10th in Indiana.
Something will have to give. And it will.
If you’ve lived most of your life without an i-Phone like me, think of all the great games between Radtke and Hobart through the years. It will take awhile. But it will surely get you ready for what should be a terrific tilt.
And wear a flannel shirt. You just have to.