BENNETT'S MINUTES: Teams should feel good about football seasons
High school football came to an end Friday night for Putnam County teams, and each of the four teams should feel good about its season.
• North Putnam won its 12th county championship in the last 24 years, but ran into a little bad luck — and an excellent Tipton team — in the sectional.
• Cloverdale had its best record (5-6) since 2005, and will probably be kicking itself for a long time about losing the season opener to South Putnam — a game the Clovers thought they could have won and broken the longer string of sub-.500 records.
• South Putnam battled injuries and a tough schedule through a 1-8 regular season against all teams from higher enrollment classifications, then put together a pair of sectional wins before running into a tough Arlington squad.
• Greencastle posted its second straight winning season and improved to 16-7 over the past two years, also overcoming some mid-season injury problems. The Tiger Cubs knocked off Western Indiana Conference champion Sullivan in the sectional semifinals, then ran into a dominant Danville team in the finals.
Like every year, each team will lose some key seniors but can look forward to having some important veterans back — and also having some younger kids to step up.
Random football notes
• No Western Indiana Conference teams survived the sectional round, nor did any regular-season opponents of Putnam County teams.
• Two winners of sectionals involving county teams broke long dry spells with their championships.
Western Boone, which defeated Tipton to win the Class 2A sectional that included North Putnam and Cloverdale, won its first sectional title since 2001. The Stars will host Indianapolis Scecina (11-1) tonight in the regional.
Arlington won what will be the last sectional title in school history, with its impending closure, and its first since 1999. The Golden Knights will host Indianapolis Lutheran (10-2), coached by former North Putnam coach Dave Pasch.
• Danville repeated its 2016 sectional title, and is the reigning champion in six of the eight IHSAA sports considered as “team” sports (football, volleyball, soccer, basketball, baseball and softball).
The Warriors have an impressive field and an impressive team, with 6-5, 220-pound Alec Burton definitely proving to be Division I-worthy. The Ohio-bound bruiser caught 10 passes for 154 yards, doing his best Rob Gronkowski impersonation and dragging several defenders down the field before being tackled.
What wasn’t impressive was Danville’s handling of the end of the game. No one knows if the guy who blocked the Tiger Cub punt deep in Greencastle territory with three minutes left, which was returned for a touchdown, disregarded instructions or not.
But with a 37-0 lead at the time, most teams would have just fallen back for a return and told whoever caught the punt to fall on the ground.
Considering that the Warriors were still throwing passes in the final five minutes with that huge lead, and did not substitute until 56 seconds to play, I have my guess about their strategy.
I have had people tell me that you “can’t tell players not to play.” Sure you can. Baseball teams quit stealing bases when up by a lot of runs, and basketball teams don’t press when they get far ahead. Respectful football teams also “take a knee” late in games instead of running unnecessary plays in games long since decided.
I guess we should be lucky they didn’t onside kick after the blocked punt touchdown.
Danville will host Bishop Chatard of Indianapolis (7-5) tonight.
Girls’ season under way
I have been able to see all four county girls’ basketball teams in the past week, and things are shaping up for another good season.
The county tournament will take place next weekend at South Putnam, with Greencastle meeting North Putnam in the opener on Friday followed by Cloverdale against South Putnam.
Big college weekend set
I’m really looking forward to this weekend, with two big college sporting events.
Tonight I will make my first appearance at Indiana University’s renovated Assembly Hall, as the Hoosiers will begin the Archie Miller Era by hosting Indiana State.
Cooper Neese will be on the ISU bench, but obviously not in uniform while sitting out as a transfer.
I really know nothing about Indiana’s team, and I know ISU was dismal last season but appears to have recruited some better players for this year.
On Saturday, I will make my first-ever trip to a Monon Bell Classic game.
I do know it’s one of those “throw the records out the window” kinds of games. D3football.com added a little bit of intrigue on Friday, when the website released its projected NCAA Division III football tournament bracket.
The site included DePauw as one of the 32 teams, even though Wittenberg has wrapped up the league’s automatic berth.
That status would obviously require a DePauw win on Saturday, and the obvious bubble-watch made famous in “March Madness” would also have to be favorable. Still, the Tigers at least have an outside shot at their first playoff berth since 2010.
Since 1924, DePauw and Wabash have squared off in each team’s final regular-season game 90 times. The team with the better winning percentage entering the game has a 53-31-6 record for a .622 winning percentage.
Wabash played Wittenberg much better, but DePauw beat an Ohio Wesleyan team that knocked off the Little Giants.
Looks like anybody’s game.