Penn and Mishawaka prepare for final "Backyard Brawl"...for now
MISHAWAKA, Ind. - Across the Mishawaka and Granger area, this is often the most anticipated week of the high school football season.
“It’s always a really good game, a really close game," Penn Kingsmen lineman Matthew Engdahl said. "It’s always a lot of fun playing on that Friday night.”
It's the final Friday night of the high school football regular season, meaning it's time for the Backyard Brawl.
It's time for Mishawaka and Penn to take the field.
Due to changing conference affiliations and set scheduling contracts, Friday will mark the final time Penn and Mishawaka meet for their annual rivalry matchup – at least for the time being.
“I’ve been involved in a lot of them and there will be more down the road," said Kingsmen head coach Cory Yeoman. "'Last' is an awful big word. It won’t be that way. Eventually it will get rescheduled again and we’ll play down the road.”
“I think it’ll be something the community will want and the programs will want," said Mishawaka head coach Keith Kinder, whose Cavemen will move to the NLC for the 2020 season.
"Making schedules is a tough thing to do nowadays with the conferences changing," he added. "If it happens to come back, great.”
And it's clear the players also want their favorite game return as soon as possible.
“It’s kind of upsetting because I was planning on going to see the Penn-Mishawaka game every year," said Penn senior linebacker Michael Garcia. "I’ve gone since I was a kid and I’ve seen tons of great games between Mishawaka and Penn. We’re all sad to see it end.”
And though a return is expected at some point, the disappointing news for the immediate future makes Friday's meeting at Steele Stadium that much more emotional.
“This is the only time this group of seniors and this football team is going to get to compete against Penn," said Kinder. "Our kids are excited about the opportunity. I hope they play well.”
And it would make a win that much more special.
“My parents would be a little upset," Garcia joked. "They’re Mishawaka fans and went to Mishawaka. I can’t wait to go home, get a win and enjoy this with our seniors.”
“It would be amazing," said Cavemen senior receiver Drew Tetzlaff. "We grow up watching these games in the stands and it’s finally our chance to get out there and show Penn what’s up.”
That "trash-talk" serves as part of the built-in fun that comes with a cross-town rivalry.
A rivalry that has to come back, for everyone involved.
“I hope it comes back because it’s always been a great game every year," said Jimenez. "It’s a great rivalry and it brings the community together.”