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SOUTH WHITLEY — The Whitko football team’s first Three Rivers Conference championship since 2002 came with an extra trophy Monday.
After a 27-24 overtime victory on the road at Rochester, the Wildcats not only locked up a share of the TRC title but had its head coach recognized by Indianapolis Colts for its accomplishments.
Third-year coach Wayne Swender was selected as the Colts/NFL Coach of the Week for week eight of the Indiana high school football season.
In its 11th year as a program, the Colts and joining partners recognize one head coach each week for their impact on his team, school and community.
“This is a reflection of all the good people that have been around me and my mentors,” Swender said. “I got a great assistant staff and we got some great players. It’s a reflection for the entire program.”
Swender has led the Wildcats to their best start since the early ’90s with a 7-1 record.
Following its latest of six victories in a row, Swender got a telephone call Sunday.
“I got a phone call on Sunday at home from a gentleman that is involved with the publication of Grid Iron Digest in conjunction with the Indianapolis Colts,” Swender said. “This gentleman had the honor of calling me with the good news. I was very surprised and very honored to be nominated because there are so many good programs and good coaches out there.”
All high school head coaches in the state of Indiana are eligible regardless of their school size. Honorees are selected by a panel of high school media, former athletic directors and other football representatives from all regions of the state.
Wednesday, Colts Youth Football Commissioner traveled to South Whitley to present Swender with the award.
The Wildcats team in attendance, Swender could only focus on his players and the game ahead.
“I thank you guys for your hard work and dedication, thank you,” Swender said to his players. “This is as much about you guys and also players before. But, don't let this be a distraction for our Friday night game.”
Each week, Colts head coach Jim Caldwell also announces the winner in his weekly press conference.
At the conclusion of the football season, each winner from the 12-week program will be given a framed certificate signed by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, Colts President Bill Polian, Caldwell and Prior.
Winners also receive a $1,000 donation from the NFL Youth Football Fund and $1,000 contributed from Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield for the school’s athletic fund.
Swender will also be recognized at the Colts game against Jaguars Dec. 19. Swender is invited to watch the Colts practice then attend the Indianapolis verse Jacksonville.
“This award is really symbolic for everyone that is involved in the program and I don’t look at it as one person, I look at it as the team of the week and the program of the week,” Swender said. “I’m humbled. Coaching has so many roller coaster moments and this is one of the neat moments.”
Swender is a resident of South Whitley and married to Janice Swender. They have two children, Kurt and Kaleb. Kaleb is a senior at Indiana University and works for the football program.
Freelancer Linda Hoskins contributed to this story.