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Coaches’ Comments Juice Up Anticipation for Sectional 37
Sportswriters just love it when football coaches give them what is called “billboard material”, or juicy quotes that some opposing coaches will post in locker rooms for their players to see. It’s a motivational tool that sometimes works.
Northeastern Coach Mike Roeder and Eastern Hancock Coach Kyle Johnson provided such material this week. In an effort to maintain the journalistic integrity of this newspaper, I’m going to rat both of them out on these pages.
Man, I love this job.
Johnson provided some fireworks for everybody in Sectional 37 to ponder when he talked about his team’s effort against Clinton Central last Friday night. The Royals lost the game 34-28, and Johnson’s statement afterward was, “This effort gets in done in Sectional 37, it really does. I’m not positive that’s going to happen, but this effort gets it done.”
Of course, he knew the next day he had fired a shot across the bow.
“I imagine Shenandoah has that one posted on the wall in the locker room,” Johnson said Monday. Word from Shenandoah, who the Royals will likely face in the second round of the sectional, is that all of the players have seen Johnson’s quote. That makes his statement “billboard worthy.”
If you ask me, and a few of you did, Eastern Hancock looks like it’s in a position to back up that talk. The Royals have played by far the toughest schedule of any team in the sectional. Eastern didn’t lose to Clinton Central because of anything the Bulldogs did. They lost because of their own mistakes. The Bulldogs are 7-2 and have lost to top-ranked Sheridan and second-ranked Lafayette Central Catholic. In Jeff Sagarin’s computer rankings, Clinton Central is ranked number four in the state.
In their last six games the Royals are 3-3. They lost those three games by a combined total of 10 points, meaning all three could easily have been wins.
Next up to the podium is Northeastern Coach Mike Roeder, who offered up some candy for the Panthers following his team’s season-ending 34-6 win over Union City. He was asked about the sectional draw, pitting his team against Knightstown.
“We’re excited about how the entire season has gone, not just the draw,” Roeder said, indicating that his team is pretty excited about getting to play 3-6 Knightstown. He finished up that interview with, “The Knightstown tradition will be well-documented in our kids’ minds.”
That’s kind of weak, but trust me, he gets better.
Shenandoah, Hagerstown, Union City and Eastern Hancock are in the upper bracket of Sectional 37. Knightstown, Tri, Northeastern and Cambridge City are in the bottom.
“The lower bracket will definitely be the easier bracket to get through so we’re happy that’s where we are,” Roeder said. “We’re not looking past Knightstown because they probably believe in their minds they’ll be competitive against us.”
I love it when that coach talks, because he offers real billboard-worthy material.
I found it interesting Roeder included that “Knightstown tradition” in his comments. Northeastern has never won a sectional. They also rarely have had to travel in sectional play. On the road in the postseason the Knights are 1-2 over the last 12 years. Yes, that’s accurate. They’ve played just three post-season road games in 12 years. During that same stretch Northeastern has gone 1-10 in home playoff games.
By comparison, Knightstown has won six straight home playoff games, not losing since 2002 to Indianapolis Scecina. Over the last 12 years the Panthers have a home field playoff record of 14-2. They have won two sectional, two regional and two semi-state titles.
Every year is different, however, and the 6-3 Knights come into the game tied with the second best record in the sectional field. The Panthers are 3-6 and are in a different mental state following that 48-0 blowout over Tri-Central. That means anything can happen.
Shenandoah is probably the overall favorite, coming in with a 7-2 record and having already beaten Eastern Hancock 10-7, Tri 12-0, and Knightstown 24-13. Of course, all three of those games could have gone the other direction if it weren’t for mistakes and big plays.
Shenandoah, Eastern Hancock, Tri High, Northeastern, Hagerstown and Knightstown could all sneak in and take that trophy if the conditions are right. The Sectional 37 title has never been so wide open.
“We finished the regular season with a 4-5 record one year and won the sectional,” Johnson said, referring to the 2003 season in which the Royals beat Union City, Shenandoah, and then Knightstown in the sectional final.
Ironically, the path to a sectional title for Eastern Hancock could follow the exact same scenario. The Royals open sectional play this year with a 4-5 record. Their first opponent is Union City. With a win they will likely play Shenandoah, who drew Hagerstown. A victory over the Raiders would put them in the final against the winner of the bottom bracket, likely Tri High, Northeastern, or Knightstown.
Six of the eight teams will begin tourney play Friday night with a legitimate chance of grabbing a sectional title.
Starting Friday night, anything can happen.
I’ll offer one guarantee: whatever happens, at least one coach is going to say something that’s billboard worthy.
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