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New Football Sectional Breakdown Intriguing
Those of you who are interested in meaningless, trivial high school football facts will probably find this column intriguing. Those who aren’t should probably turn the page now.
Earlier this month the IHSAA announced the realignment of football classes, and as many suspected, Knightstown and Shenandoah were moved back to Class 2A.
At first glance, that was a little disappointing. But in taking a closer look at Sectional 29, where the Panthers and Raiders have been sent, there is great reason to be optimistic. Most of the teams that make up Sectional 29 have rich football traditions, dating back more than 30 years. Sectional 29 teams have won three state championships, seven semistate, 13 regional and 27 sectional titles. Impressive numbers, no doubt, but many are from almost prehistoric times.
Over the past 10 seasons, Knightstown and Shenandoah carry the most impressive resumes of the eight teams in Sectional 29. The Panthers and Raiders have combined to win 168 games over the last 10 seasons, going 168-75. The other six teams have a combined record of 202-298. In the last 10 years, Knightstown and Shenandoah have each won two sectional titles. The Panthers also won two regional and semistate trophies, going to the RCA Dome twice.
Lawrenceburg, who won state football championships in 1975 and 1978, has won three sectional titles in the last 10 years. None of the other teams in Sectional 29 has one title. Last year the eight teams were a combined 38-45, including 3-8 in the playoffs. The Panthers and Raiders registered those three playoff wins.
The other Sectional 29 teams and their records last year include Centerville (7-3), Indianapolis Washington (0-10), Lawrenceburg (2-8), Triton Central (9-1), Union County (1-9) and Heritage Christian (6-4). All six of those teams lost their first sectional game.
So while the sectional field has rich tradition, it hasn’t resulted in recent success. That bodes well for the Panthers, who at 5-7 last season, made the longest playoff run of any team in the field.
Indianapolis Washington won a state title in 1974 and most recently a regional in 1994. They stopped playing football for 10 seasons, resuming gridiron play in 2004. Over the last three seasons they are 3-27. Heritage Christian had their first winning season ever last year, and their football program will be entering its sixth season this fall. Triton Central, a throwback Big Blue River Conference rival for the Panthers and Raiders from the 1970’s, went undefeated last season. They promptly lost the first sectional game after breezing through an extremely weak regular season schedule.
So the move to Sectional 29 appears to have improved the chances of winning a sectional title for both Knightstown and Shenandoah. Of course, once you get to the regional round, Class 2A teams are a little bigger and it’s a greater challenge.
In case you’re curious, Sectional 29’s winner gets Sectional 30’s winner, and that field includes traditional state powers Speedway (three regional titles), Tri-West (eight regional, five semistate and three state titles), South Putnam (six regional, two semistate and one state title), North Putnam (13-1 last year) and Cascade (10-2 last year).
The down side to the realignment is that the teams in Sectional 29 aren’t exactly neighbors and old rivals. According to Mapquest, 153 miles separate North Putnam and Lawrenceburg, and the drive is two hours and 40 minutes.
The drive from Knightstown to North Putnam is one hour and 45 minutes, and to South Putnam is one hour and 30 minutes. Centerville and North Putnam are separated by a more than two-hour drive.
The IHSAA obviously didn’t have a map when they made sectional assignments.
According to Webster, the definition of sectional is, “Of, relating to, or characteristic of a particular district.” In this case, the district starts at Centerville on the state’s east side, stretches toward the west to Greencastle, nearly half way to Illinois. It then extends south to Lawrenceburg, which isn’t far from Cincinnati. For the heck of it, a couple of Indianapolis schools are thrown in to balance everything. Knightstown and Shenandoah are pretty much in the heart of the “district”, meaning that just about any road trip will be an extended one.
Still basketball season
I know, it’s still basketball season. Knightstown has one more regular season game at Rushville Friday night, and then the team goes up against Sectional 41 favorite Shenandoah next Wednesday. Eastern Hancock drew Wapahani, a team they should beat, but will then likely face the Raiders in the second round.
Shenandoah is on a roll, typical of that school when the state tournament rolls around. They have won eight straight and play three games in four days this week. They are 14-3, and no one expects another team to sneak away with the sectional trophy.
For many Panther fans, this has been a painful season to endure. The team didn’t win a home game, and barring an unexpected upset at Rushville, will suffer their first ever 20-loss regular season. Knightstown lost just 25 games over the past four seasons combined. The saving grace from this season is the fact that those young players are outstanding athletes who are consistently making mistakes that young kids make.
I’ve been saying this all year, and I still say it. Eventually, that is going to change and those kids are going to grow up. History tells us that is an absolute fact.
In 1999, 2000 and 2001, the Panthers went 1-19, 3-18 and 2-18. Over the next five years, they went 84-32 and won three straight sectional titles.
This team and its coach are in the beginning stages of a building project that will return them to those glory years in short order.
We just need to continue being patient and remember that two, three and four years from now, we’ll all recall this painful season. We’ll talk about how those kids grew and benefited from that varsity experience, and the tremendous impact it had on preparing them for their final four runs.
We know that’s coming. So despite a looming 20-loss season, we should still be smiling, and still be proud of a young team that never once failed to put up a fight.
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