While he’s never been in the Duneland Athletic Conference up to now, new Portage coach Russ Radtke is no stranger to his future counterparts.
You don’t spend half a century in the game without getting to know a lot of people.
“Russ is a great friend,” Michigan City coach Phil Mason said. “I have a tremendous amount of respect for his style and work ethic.”
Mason faced Radtke 11 times when he was at Andrean, going 4-3 against him when he was at Griffith, then 4-0 against him when he was at New Prairie. City and NP have been scrimmaging in the summer in recent years.
“I’ll miss the time we spent working with our teams together in the summer,” Mason said. “I’ll embrace the challenge of competition he will bring to the DAC.”
Long-time La Porte offensive line coach Bob James has been on the opposite sideline of Radtke the last eight years in the county rivalry game. Radtke’s son, Bo, was also on the Slicers’ staff a few years ago.
“It is well known that the Duneland Conference is one of the top conferences, not only in the state of Indiana, but in the Midwest,” James said. “That being said, I think the challenge of competing in this conference was very appealing to coach Radtke. We look forward to our Week 9 matchup with the ‘new look’ Portage Indians.”
Radtke has won 368 games in 43 seasons at Connersville, North Judson, Griffith and New Prairie. This will be the first time he has coached above Class 4A.
“Great coach, good guy,” a DAC assistant who coached with Radtke years ago at Griffith said on the condition of anonymity. “He wins and he will get those kids excited to play. He’s a great motivator. He will also do a good job recruiting the hallways.”
Portage hasn’t won more than six games since 2003 and was 1-9 last season, but there seems to be little doubt that Radtke can succeed there, if not immediately.
“They have skill,” one coach said. “And he will put them in position to succeed.”