Mysterious arson fire claims Indiana team's equipment

A little more than a week ago, T.C. Howe (Indiana) Community High School football coach Jim Sturgeon was preparing for a tough matchup with Arsenal Tech. His Hornets had finally earned a win the prior Friday, edging Arlington 21-12, but Sturgeon knew that an undefeated Tech team would prove a much tougher task.

Then he showed up to school on Monday, and by 11:30 a.m. all his concerns about Tech were reduced to rubble. Smoldering rubble, in this case. According to the Indianapolis Star and, Howe High School's brand-new football-equipment shed was set on fire in a mysterious act of arson last Monday, burning to the ground before lunchtime.

In the process, the Hornets lost $10,000-$12,000 worth of football equipment, a total that ended up being roughly the worst possible amount; it was slightly too light a loss for the school's insurance policy to kick in, leaving the Hornets to replace the equipment on their own.

Here's what Sturgeon told WTHR about the lost equipment, and the moment he learned it was gone for good.

"What do you mean the barn's burned down? Yeah. They burned the barn down," said Jim Sturgeon, head football coach at Howe High School.

That's all Howe High School's head football coach could say at first when he learned the team's equipment shed was no more.

"Our dummies were in there. All of our field equiment for the game. Down markers, line markers. Everything was there that we need to have this field ready to pay on," said Sturgeon.

Now the team is furiously fundraising to try and replace the practice tools to help them compete. In addition to getting the word out locally, football luminaries like Sports Illustrated NFL writer Peter King have implored readers to contribute to the team's recovery efforts.

"We're going to do everything we can to get this thing going again,'' Howe High School athletic director Danny Wilson told the Star. "We've already had a few e-mails from people asking how they can help.''

In the meantime, arson detectives are searching the area for clues, though no one knows how likely it will be to find arsonists without any known motive or any discernible leads.

"Hopefully we find out who did it, but I don't know how possible that is," Sturgeon told WTHR. "But that's why we have the arson people out here.

"We're just going forward from here and playing football."

Howe will try to rebound from last week's loss on Friday, when they travel to Broad Ripple, after another week without a full complement of training equipment.

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