Two weeks of the Indiana high school football season are in the books. Throw in a few previews I’ve written, and it’s been a busy couple of weeks.
The previews were largely uneventful. I’ve been doing those long enough where I have a pretty solid formula in place. Every now and then I run into a coach who is difficult to reach on the phone, which is frustrating and causes delays. This year I had two.
One flat out refused to talk to me on the phone. He kept suggesting that I drop by the fields during practice. Even when I told him I live an hour away from his school and that the phone call would likely take only 10 minutes, he refused to talk. Another coach acted like it was a monumental pain to spend a few minutes on the phone, and then coughed, sniffled, sighed, and mumbled the entire five minutes we raced through her roster. Most coaches, even if they aren’t great interviews, understand that this is about their players, not about them. They’ll work to make sure we get the right players highlighted, their names spelled correctly, etc. This is the first time, in six years of writing previews, I’ve had coaches who were this difficult to work with.
On to the games…
Football week one I drove about 40 minutes east to watch our Class 3A school, IC, open their season. They went 9–0 against a weak regular season schedule last year then lost in the last minute, by a point, in the first round of playoffs. When I got to the press box, the college-aged guys who were doing the local cable broadcast were running through IC’s roster. They asked me what I knew about the kids and I shared a few insights. Then one of the announcers said, “What do you think of Coach G.?”
Coach G. is IC’s coach. He’s one of the top ten coaches, in games won, in state history. His teams are always good, they threw the ball a ton even before that was the style, and they tend to put up a lot of points. In fact, lots of folks don’t like him because he has a reputation of running up the score. And I’ve heard some stories about his behavior toward his players in practice. I needed to answer this question very carefully.
“How so?” I responded with a grin.
“He’s not coaching tonight,” the announcer said.
“Yeah, he’s suspended because of what happened in their sectional game last year.”
And then it came back to me. He threw a fit at the end of their final game last October and got thrown out of the game. Which apparently earned him an automatic, one-game suspension by the state high school sports association.
I sent a text to my editor to see if he knew about this. He did not. He asked me to go find the athletic director and get official word on cause and length of suspension. I made a lap of the field during warmups and couldn’t find the AD. My editor said to keep my eyes open, he’d likely turn up at some point.
So then the game starts. The hosts ran right down the field in their opening possession and took a 6–0 lead. IC had a long drive that stalled and ended on downs. The first quarter ended in about 20 minutes, which was a great pace.
And then the second quarter blew the hopes for an early night apart. It took just over an hour of real time. IC scored 35 points, giving up 8 along the way. Lots of passes, which stopped the clock. Three turnovers, which stopped the clock. Man, that thing took forever.
Fortunately the second half went pretty quickly. I never saw the AD so I ran down onto the field after the game and hoped some IC coach would be obvious as the guy in charge for the night. I grabbed the guy who talked to the team in the post-game huddle and he gave me the details on Coach G., a few good comments about the game, and I filed my story easily before our 10:15 deadline.
Week two I drove down to my favorite school, good ol’ EHS. Things aren’t as bad as they were down there when I first started writing for the paper. But they did get pounded pretty good in week one by a team that was winless last year. I wasn’t counting on a close game.
It was ugly quick. Touchdown on the third play of the game. EHS threw a pick six on their third snap. Then they gave up five more touchdowns before halftime. I was able to write 90 percent of my story during the break then just kind of half paid attention during the second half. My worry was how to deal with the coach after the final whistle. He’s new to the school, so I had no idea what his temperament was like, especially after such a profound beating. And he was an offensive lineman in his playing days, which were only about 10 years ago. He is the first coach I’ve had to talk to who is significantly bigger than me. I was a little nervous about approaching him after the game.
It ended up being fine. He wasn’t happy, so he was rather terse in his comments. But while he has at least 150 lbs. on me, I’m still about two inches taller then him, so I could look down at him and pretend I was not intimidated by his size.
Oh, and there was some discomfort in the press box as well. The guy sitting next to me, who was running the clock, was making vaguely racist comments all night. I didn’t hear what got him started, but I heard him telling the announcer that “…that whole Confederate flag thing is bullcrap!” Then EHS has one black player, who did not show a ton of initiative on the night. He whiffed badly on a couple open-field tackles, didn’t chase down a fumble that was in his vicinity, etc. The guy next to me was seething. Fortunately he never dropped any of the bombs I was fearing. He did talk about how lazy that kid is, which based on his play that night, might be entirely true. But when a guy defending the Confederate flag makes those comments, the last place I want to be is in that conversation.
I’m once again writing some previews for the state basketball magazine, which means I’m just putting a bunch of stats and quotes the publisher sends over into a specific format. It’s kind of tedious and doesn’t pay much. But it is always cool to take the girls to the bookstore in December, find the magazine, flip to my section and show them my name.
This week I take a break from reporting but will go watch two of the top three teams in the state play each other. There is a personal angle on this game I’ll share next week.
- Normally we keep detailed stats and file a full boxscore as well. But for some reason our editor has not explained to us, we’re not doing that this year. At least not yet. So when it’s 45–0 at halftime (that’s correct; the other team missed four PATs), I don’t have to track every meaningless yard in the second half once the starters begin subbing out. ↩