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Greg Jones

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Tonight
Luers at Snider, 7 p.m.
Concordia at North Side, 7 p.m.
Northrop at East Noble, 7 p.m.
South Side at Dwenger, 7 p.m.
Wayne at Anderson, 7 p.m.
Bellmont at Adams Central, 7 p.m.
Carroll at Goshen, 7:30 p.m.
DeKalb at Angola, 7 p.m.
Hunt. North at Homestead, 7 p.m.
New Haven at Heritage, 7 p.m.
Norwell at Leo, 7 p.m.
Warsaw at Columbia City, 7 p.m.
Northfield at Bluffton. 7 p.m.
South Adams at Winchester, 7 p.m.
Woodlan at Eastside, 7 p.m.
Blackford at Fremont, 7 p.m.
C. Noble at West Noble, 7 p.m.
Churubusco at Lakeland, 7 p.m.
Prairie Heights at Garrett, 7 p.m.
Culver Acad. at T. Valley, 7:30 p.m.
Southwood at S. Wells, 7 p.m.
Wawasee at Whitko, 7 p.m.

AD stays on minds of fans at Bluffton

As players, parents and fans enter the Bluffton football field tonight for the game against Northfield, there will be a different feeling for some. It is the season opener for the high school season but their thoughts may drift elsewhere.

Usually a time for pure enthusiasm about a new season, the Tigers’ faithful are concerned about one of their own – Bluffton athletic director Steve Thompson.

“We are overwhelmed and so very grateful by the generous outpouring of support for our family,” Thompson’s wife, Melissa, said in a statement. “We have been humbled by all of you that have sent cards, text messages, Facebook messages and financial support. Most importantly, we are appreciative of your prayers on our family’s behalf. We have no doubt that God is hearing your prayers and that we are being strengthened by Him.”

Thompson was injured the morning of Aug. 7 when he and a group of other high school staff were headed back to the school from a meeting at the middle school. As the group walked through the parking the lot, the high school principal, Steve Baker, drove up behind them and honked, police said.

Thompson inadvertently stepped into the path of Baker’s car. The impact knocked Thompson to the ground, and he suffered a serious head injury.

Thompson recently was upgraded to serious condition, leaving the opener somewhat bittersweet for Bluffton.

“Things have continued to go on,” Bluffton-Harrison Metropolitan School District Superintendent Wayne Barker said Wednesday. “This Friday we will have a football game, and I am sure everybody who walks in will be still thinking about Steve Thompson and his family.

“Certainly everyone in the athletic community down here, even outside of it; … this is a small town that binds together when bad things happen. He and his family are on everybody’s thoughts and minds and prayers.”

Thompson has been the Bluffton AD since 2006 and means a lot to the school and the town.

“Mr. Thompson is someone who is close with a lot of our student-athletes and students in general,” Barker said.

“For all of them, it has been a sobering effect on the entire community for that matter. Certainly he would want them to go out with their best abilities and enjoy the experience. It is still only an athletic event. We want it to be a good experience, but there are things far more important in life.”

Thompson was so well-liked that well-wishers are asked to not visit him in the hospital while he continues to recover.

“We are encouraged by the small progress he is making as opposed to what he has already had to go through,” Barker said. “Now that his condition has been upgraded, more people are going to want to come and visits aren’t good for him right now. He is making progress. He is a lot further than people would have expected him even a week ago.”

While Thompson continues his recovery, various administrators and teachers have banded together to keep things going in his absence, however long that may be. Assistant athletic director Robert Vanderkolk is covering most of the day-to-day duties, while other school officials and teachers have taken on supervisory roles during games.

Barker has even heard from retired athletic directors who have offered their assistance – for no pay.

“He has done such a great job as athletic director, in terms of events themselves, we have just had people step in and help us during this time,” Barker said. “Steve had things in such good shape that really right now we are only worried about covering events, making sure we have supervision and officials. Things have been scheduled so far out, some of that we don’t have to worry about right now.

“People have been so willing to help.”

Greg Jones is the High school sports editor for The Journal Gazette and has been covering sports in the Fort Wayne area since 1998. He can be reached by email gjones@jg.net; phone, 461-8224; or fax 461-8648.

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