Before Muncie Central football took the field for the first time in its brand new stadium, the Bearcats held a ceremony.
Including a ribbon-cutting and multiple speeches from people involved in the project, Muncie Central principal Chris Walker told the crowd this signified a new era for their football program.
But by the end of the first quarter, it was apparent the new era was not going to start with a win. Rome wasn't built in a day.
“We didn't play well,” Bearcat head coach Kyle Padgett said. “We weren't very disciplined and we didn't follow the game plan.”
Yorktown came out with fire on its opponent’s new turf. At the end of the first quarter, the Tigers led 22-0.
“Offense has been really efficient, defense is getting turnovers, and [we’re running the ball [well],” Yorktown head coach Mike Wilhelm said.
The Tigers didn’t stop their success, as they went on to defeat the Bearcats 50-7. Auden Ewing was a big factor towards that success, ending with 66 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns.
“We can make big plays almost anytime we want,” Ewing said. “We just have some playmakers.”
However, the biggest storyline for the Tigers (2-0) came in last week's win over Anderson when senior running back Jalen Thomas was injured and will miss the entire 2023-24 season.
“It’s just awful for something like that to happen, especially on the first play of the first game of the season,” Tigers’ starting quarterback Mason Moulton said. “We’re all feeling for him, but our other running backs have stepped up.”
The Tigers have found ways to step up and keep the momentum even with Thomas out. But what about the Bearcats? Tonight was their grand opening, and to Padgett, it may have even worked to Muncie Central’s (0-2) disadvantage when it came to producing on the field.
“Personally, that stuff's tough,” he said. “As a head coach, you hate distractions like that.”
During the game, Bearcat fans may have wondered if the new stadium and field was worth it. To Padgett, it is.
“I rode my bike this morning and came back and just stood up there [in the stands],” he said. “I looked at it for 20 minutes and when the lights are on, it's beautiful… We got to make sure we're doing our part to uphold our end of the deal and put out a good product out there”
Perhaps the thing that sold some Bearcat fans tonight wasn’t the game. It wasn’t the flashy new toys. It was how Padgett respected his opponent.
After both teams lined up and shook hands, the second-year head coach walked over to the Yorktown bench to talk to an injured Tiger.
“That young man played pretty hard in the plays, earlier in the game and I respect that,” Padgett said. “…I always feel for those kids and I just hope he's okay.”
But to Padgett, injuries spoil something else for the athletes that put on helmets and shoulder pads every Friday night.
“There is no better game than football,” he said. “[It teaches you] all the skills of life that you need to grow up and it's something that when you're a high school kid, you only get so many chances at it.”
To some, this game doesn’t show what the future holds for Muncie Central. Instead, to others, that simple gesture and philosophy might show the Bearcats are truly entering a new era.
The Bearcats will attempt to win their first game as they welcome McCutcheon to Muncie. For Yorktown, they start their Hoosier Heritage Conference schedule with a road game at New Palestine.
Contact Zach Carter with comments at firstname.lastname@example.org or on X @ZachCarter85.