Central boys basketball coach Matt Fine has noticed motivation for offseason conditioning has been easier this year. He has the first game on his schedule to thank.
Central and Southside have added a second regular-season game against each other this year. They will play on Nov. 26 to open the season, then play Jan. 24 in their normal position in January. The November game will be a boys-only tilt, while the January game will maintain the girls-boys doubleheader format traditionally used in the rivalry series.
All games will be played in the Fieldhouse.
“That makes your fall workouts and your first couple weeks of practice probably that much better, maybe a little bit more intense,” Fine said. “So I think it’s a great thing for everybody.”
The opening boys game will be played eight days after the board of Muncie Community Schools is scheduled to make a decision on possible consolidation options within the district, a decision that could affect the future of both schools. But administrators said that was not the reason a second game was added in the rivalry series.
“That had nothing to do with it,” Central athletic director Chip Mehaffey said. “It had to do with finding a school that could fit into our schedule on that night that was not a million miles away.”
Southside athletic director Tom Lyon said the possibility of the two teams playing twice had been discussed before, but the two sides never found a mutually-agreeable date. Central won’t open its season against Monroe Central this year, giving the Bearcats an opening for the first game of the season.
Southside will still play Broad Ripple, its previous opening opponent, but the Rebels’ game against the Rockets will be Southside’s second game of the season. Southside has not opened before Thanksgiving in recent seasons, but the added Central game will be the Tuesday before the holiday.
While consolidation did not factor into the decision, Lyon indicated the revenue generated from the game was a factor, with the annual rivalry game typically being a big draw.
“Our attendance has been down; it’s been down the last few years,” Lyon said. “And I think that’s not just at our place, I think it’s been down at a lot of places. But just whenever we get together in football or basketball, it just seems to be a big game for people that want to come out and see how we stack up against each other.”
Second-year Southside coach Jeff Howard got his first glimpse of the rivalry last season. For Howard, an Anderson native who played at Madison Heights, it was nostalgic.
“You could honestly feel the intensity, you could feel the emotions during warmups,” Howard said. “And it honestly brought me back to the rivalries we had here in Anderson. Anytime it was either Madison Heights-Highland, Madison Heights-Anderson, Anderson-Highland, the Wigwam was packed. I played in that era, in the Wigwam. I could remember that. The game itself had that kind of intensity.”
Southside finished last season with a 7-14 record, while Central went 8-14. Both teams’ seasons ended with losses to Hamilton Heights in the sectional tournament.