Bennett's Minutes: Fall sports season off to great start

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Last year, Putnam County’s 66 high school varsity sports teams combined to win four sectional titles.

Following Greencastle’s sectional volleyball championship on Saturday, Putnam County squads have now already won three titles this fall with the football sectionals set to begin on Friday.

South Putnam’s first-ever boys’ tennis sectional and Greencastle’s boys’ soccer crown started off what looks to be a banner year (pun intended) for Putnam County squads.

Six cross country athletes are still alive, in addition to the Greencastle volleyball squad, hoping to add to the list of accomplishments.

Greencastle also won three of the first four Western Indiana Conference team titles contested this fall (in girls’ golf, boys’ soccer and boys’ tennis) to get the Tiger Cubs off to a great start in the all-sports standings.

The more the merrier — it’s much easier and more fun to find good stories to tell the more successful teams there are.

Here’s hoping the remainder of the school year will be as bountiful as the first couple of months for producing interesting subject matter.

WIC wrapups

The final four WIC fall sports team champions were contested over the past couple of weeks.

In cross country, Brown County won the boys’ title while Edgewood captured the girls’ crown.

Northview wrapped up its ninth WIC volleyball title in the past 10 years with a 3-0 win over Indian Creek in the championship match.

Sullivan captured the football title for the second straight year, defeating Indian Creek 48-38 in a rematch of last year’s title tilt.

The much stronger West Division not surprisingly won four of the six crossover football games, with Northview beating Cascade 56-14, West Vigo beating Owen Valley 26-13 and Greencastle topping Edgewood 42-0.

The East Division crossover wins came from Brown County (28-12 over South Putnam) and Cloverdale (23-19 over North Putnam).

I have never been a fan of crossover playoff systems like this one, since they only produce a valid champion if the two divisions are equal in strength.

(Actually, I have huge problems with the entire concept of the 12-team WIC that will be addressed in detail at a later date.)

For example, Greencastle placed fifth in the West Division, but pounded East Division runnerup Cascade 37-0.

Sullivan handled the Tiger Cubs easily in their head-to-head matchup earlier this year, but the teams were not nearly that far apart if you look at just a couple of games.

Sullivan beat Northview by one point on a two-point conversion on the last play of the game, while Northview beat Greencastle by two points on a field goal on the last play of the game.

Cynics would say that Linton-Stockton should be the conference champs based on that premise, since the Miners are the only team to beat Sullivan.

Random fall notes

• More than half of Greencastle’s football games this fall have been shutouts.

The Cubs won 10-0 over Crawfordsville, 37-0 over Cascade and 42-0 over Edgewood, and were on the short end of a 14-0 loss to West Vigo and a 10-0 loss to North Putnam.

• As is normally the case every year all over the state, very few football games involving Putnam County teams this season have been decided by single digits.

Of the 30 games played by the four teams (six of which were intra-county matchups), just five were decided by less than 10 points.

There just aren’t a lot of nights when two equally-talented teams with the same ratio of healthy/injured players meet and play a game that goes right down to the wire.

I’ve tried to think about why that is, when in basketball there seem to be far more games that are won or lost on the final shot. The best analogy I can think of is that it’s easier to control scoring in basketball, since you can either take the ball inside, shoot it from outside or take advantage of free throw opportunities.

In football, if a bigger, stronger and faster team keeps you from running the ball and your passing game isn’t strong, then it’s hard to muster points.

The Cloverdale-North Putnam game was the only single-digit affair among the crossover games, and the average margin of victory was over 21 points per game.

• Former North Putnam coach Greg Barrett has done a miraculous job in his first year at South Vermillion, turning a program around that had posted seven straight losing seasons.

The Wildcats are 7-2 this season and are co-champions of the Wabash River Conference.

South Vermillion needed to pull off two huge victories to earn a share of the conference title, and got wins over Fountain Central and Attica to get the job done.

The Wildcats’ reward for their success? They drew Class 3A No. 3-ranked Danville in their sectional opener.

And should the Wildcats pull off the upset, they would then get to play the winner between two strong programs with state championship pedigrees in Monrovia and Tri-West.

What a tough sectional.

No Putnam County teams have an easy path to a sectional title, actually.

North Putnam and Cloverdale both see No. 2-ranked Tipton in their path, while South Putnam must tangle with 7-2 Covenant Christian in its opener.

• If you didn’t catch the story in Tuesday’s Banner Graphic, DePauw will host one of the biggest non-Monon Bell football games in a while on Saturday when Wittenberg comes to Blackstock Stadium in a matchup of the only two undefeated teams in the North Coast Athletic Conference.

Kickoff is 1 p.m. between No. 13-ranked Wittenberg and No. 25 DePauw, which entered the rankings this week for the first time since 2010.

• It’s hard not to feel badly for Eastern Greene, which recently capped its first-ever undefeated season with a huge win over county rival Linton-Stockton.

The Thunderbirds discovered they had used an ineligible player in three games — which they won by a total of 108 points — and had to forfeit those victories.

Getting kicks

from soccer

One of the most pleasant results of the fall sports season for me has been my greater exposure to high school soccer.

I would still make no claims to being an expert at the sport, but after seeing more soccer this fall than ever before I have developed a much greater appreciation for it — as well as a much better understanding of its rules and strategies.

The play for both the boys’ and girls’ matches I saw this fall was very physical, undoubtedly moreso than one might expect when considering how little protective gear (none) the players wear.

I am sure I heard heads crack into each other at least once on Saturday in Greencastle’s regional match, and the jostling for position (as shown in the photo above) often became as intense as offensive line play in football or rebounders clearing out opponents under the boards in basketball.

Soccer is a better sport than I realized, and I’m glad to be better educated.

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  • I will agree with you this conference is a joke. Not just from a competitive standpoint, with the way it is laid out.

    -- Posted by Javabeans on Wed, Oct 18, 2017, at 9:30 AM
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