WARSAW – The news of the plane crashed that killed four local men spread quickly Friday night. As Warsaw’s football team, cheerleaders and fans hit the field to celebrate the team’s 21-0 win against Wawasee, the jovial occasion became somewhat subdued. Four men were on their way to see their beloved Notre Dame Fighting Irish take on Clemson. They never made it to the airport outside Clemson as their plane crashed about a mile from its destination.
There was reason to celebrate the accomplishments of the team Friday night, and was rightly and justly done. However, life intervened. The news that former Tippecanoe Valley and Triton football coach Charlie Smith as well as his son, Scott, along with former Tippecanoe Valley football coach Scott Bibler and local racing legend Tony Elliott had all passed, a hush came over the 200 hundred gathered in Fisher Field’s north end zone.
A shocked silence suddenly filled the air as the hoarse tones of Warsaw football head coach Phil Jensen stammered to announce what had happened. With family members of the Smith family currently involved with the Tiger football program, Jensen asked the team, the fans, as well as the connected Tiger Nation and the Warsaw community, pray for the families of those that lost their loved ones.
Charlie Smith started his football coaching career at Triton. He coached the Trojans from 1970-73, going 27-9-1 in four seasons with TRC championships in 1971, 72 and 73. He guided Triton to 8-1 marks in both 1970 and 1972, the top records in program history. The elder Smith then went on to coach for nine years at Tippecanoe Valley, where he posted a 74-10 record, including a state championship in 1979.
The elder Smith, who was inducted into the Triton Athletic Hall of Fame in 2014, was a Warsaw city councilman.
Scott Smith, an attorney in Warsaw, played basketball at Tippecanoe Valley.
The local racing community, to which Elliott was deeply connected, also showed an outpouring of sorrow on social media late Friday night.
And while not coaching at Tippecanoe Valley this season, longtime head coach and one of the great ones, Scott Bibler’s loss is another punch in the gut for a community that has lost far too many shining stars. The Valley football team were in Rochester for the annual battle for the bell, and came up short. The score wasn’t what any of the fans left upset about. Saturday morning the school will open at 9 a.m. with counselors, preachers and staff members available to help a wounded community continue to grieve.
Hug your children, tell your loved ones you love them, and be thankful for each day. And keep the Smith’s, the Elliott’s and the Bibler’s as well as their families and friends in your thoughts this weekend as our community continues to cope with the losses.