The Goshen High School football team made local history on a cold-and-windy November 1978 Friday evening at Warren Central High School in Indianapolis.
The Redskins defeated the Brownsburg Bulldogs, 9-0, to win the Class AA state championship, the first state football or basketball title won by an Elkhart County school.
“It was such a special event for the community,” team member Jim Evans said. “The football playoffs were relatively new.”
Ken Mirer coached the Redskins to a 9-1 regular season record and to three straight playoffs wins.
“Bringing the state championship home to GHS and the community was very special,” Mirer said.
It was quite a turn around for a program Mirer had taken over five years before. His first team went 1-8 before going 7-3 the next season.
“That group of kids turned it around,” the coach said. “They set the stage for the younger kids.”
Another member of the 1978 team Steve Swihart said, “We created some great memories that season. The championship was something nice to hang our hat on. It demonstrated it could be done.”
Mirer guided the Redskins back to the state finals in 1981 this time finishing as the AA runner-up following a 34-20 loss to Franklin Central.
Goshen’s second state championship was in 1998 when the Rick Mirer-led Redskins handed Franklin Central a 24-10 loss, capping a 14-0 season.
The Redskins had another runner-up finish in 1999 when Brad Park took Goshen to the 4A title game before suffering a 24-21 loss to Indianapolis Cathedral.
The NorthWood girls basketball team became the first Elkhart county program to win a state basketball title in 1999. Seniors Natalie Will and Amy Zercher sparked the Black Swish to a 72-71 victory over the previously unbeaten Indianapolis Cathedral Fighting Irish at the old Market Square Arena in Indianapolis. Will swished the first of two free throws with 5.6 seconds remaining to give her team the one-point lead. A last-second shot by Cathedral sophomore Asjah Zimmerman rattled in and then fell out as time expired.
“It was the longest 4.4 seconds I’ve ever sat through,” NorthWood coach Steve Neff said in the post-game press conference. “I’ve never felt so much heartache and joy in one moment,” Zercher said after the contest. “I was on the other end a few years ago (1997) and I did not want to go back there. You can’t describe it (the championship). It’s what you dream about and it’s truly a dream come true.”
Will poured in 24 points to lead the team. Zercher added 17, Kasey Chamberlin 13, Carol Duncan 10 and Angela Callander eight.
NorthWood’s first appearance in the state finals was in 1997, the final year of the single-class tournament. The Black Swish finished 25-1 after suffering a 58-42 loss to Crown Point in a semifinal game.
In the 2003-04 boys basketball season, the Jimtown Jimmies coached by Randy DeShone became the first Elkhart County boys team to win a state championship. The Jimmies (25-2) topped Garrett 57-45 in the semifinals and Brownstone Central 63-59 in the 2A finale.
The Westview Warriors made history of their own as the first team to win back-to-back state titles in the four-class system. The Warriors coached by Troy Neely defeated Paoli 71-52 in the 1999 championship and returned in 2000 to edge Winchester Community 59-53. Among the key players on both squads were Adam Bontrager, Mark Miller, Jeff Nelson, Derek Yoder, Eric Yoder and Jason Yoder.
NorthWood, led by freshman quarterback Skyler Titus, captured the 3A state football title in 2005 with a 7-0 win over Indianapolis Chatard. The only score was a pass from Titus to Brant Ehert and a PAT by Ryan Burkhart. Rich Dodson was the Panther coach. The team entered the playoffs with a 3-6 record before winning six consecutive playoff games.
NorthWood also has 3A runner-up finishes in 1986, 1993, 1998 and 2003.
The Concord Minuteman have runner-up finishes in football in 1984 (AAA), 1998 (4A) and 2006 (4A). The Wawasee Warriors have second-place finishes in 1985 (3A) and 2004 (4A). Jimtown has been one of the more successful area programs with state titles in 1991 (1A), 1997 (2A), 1998 (2A) and 2005 (2A) plus runner-up finishes in 1985 (1A) and 1987 (1A).
Concord has a pair of runner-up finishes in boys basketball. The Minutemen (28-1) lost to Muncie Central 76-53 in the 1988 championship and to Bedford North Lawrence 63-60 in the 1990 finale. Both teams were coached by Jim Hahn.
The Elkhart Central Blue Blazers advanced to the state finals in 1978 (89-85 semifinal loss to Muncie Central), 1995 (62-49 semifinal loss to Merrillville) and 1999 (79-74 championship loss to North Central).
Back in the days when Elkhart had one high school, the Blazers made the state finals in 1954 (59-50 semifinal loss to Muncie Central), 1956 (54-52 semifinal loss to Lafayette Jefferson) and 1971 (70-60 championship loss to East Chicago Washington).
In girls basketball, Wawasee has advanced to the state finals twice and Westview once. Wawasee defeated Austin 56-54 in the semifinals and lost to Crown Point 48-31 in the finals in 1985 and lost to Indianapolis Brebeuf 51-43 in the 3A state championship in 2007. Westview dropped a 46-34 decision to Heritage Christian in the 2A state championship in 2006.
Northridge won a girls state softball title in 1998. Dave Willig was the coach as the Raiders topped New Albany 8-6 in the finale.
Coming this week
Each year in February The Goshen News publishes a special progress edition that is inserted into the daily paper. This year’s edition will be published on Thursday. The theme of this year’s progress edition, as it has been the past couple years, is “Who We Are.” In advance of next week’s publication we will be running articles and profiles we feel capture the spirit of who we are as a community. We hope you enjoy and agree.