Sunset over western Howard County during Tigers-Panthers varsity football game on Oct. 2.

Sunset over western Howard County during Tigers-Panthers varsity football game on Oct. 2.


KOKOMO, Ind. – Every fall, the Western Panthers and Northwestern Tigers meet on the gridiron in a much anticipated rivalry football game. Last Friday, under less-than-ideal conditions, the squads battled for pride as both were already out of the Hoosier Conference title race. And the tone was set early by the Black Attack defense.

Entering the game as the underdog after losing starting quarterback Tyler Knepley to a broken collarbone, the Panthers defense bent but did not break on the opening possession. The Tigers, with help from running back Evan Cardwell, drove easily down to the one yard line. But just as they looked to score, Northwestern coughed up the ball and Western recovered – one of seven Tigers fumbles on the night.

“Our defense stepped up huge,” said Western head coach Ron Jankovich. “I have said all along that our defense is our lifeblood; our defense sets up our offense. And it did tonight. We preach it every single day and coach Derek Tuggle says it every day.”

Neither team scored in the first stanza and the game was tied at eight at the half. Western struck first when backup quarterback Jacob Douglass had a 53-yard run, scored from one-yard out and added a two-point conversion on the windy evening. Northwestern evened the score when quarterback Trey Richmond found Austin Miller for a 19-yard scoring strike – Richmond then ran in the two-point conversion.

“We’ve said all year our special teams will make or break us,” said Jankovich. “Today, they made us with those two-point conversions. If we don’t get those we are on the other side of things. Our guys set the tempo.”

Northwestern looked to be in business again early in the fourth quarter, but the Tigers fumbled the ball in the red zone and Josue Hicks returned the ball 58 yards. With 10:05 left in the game, Douglass found pay dirt for a second time – this time on a 16-yard run to the end zone. He added his second two-point conversion run to put the Panthers up 16-8. Douglass accounted for all 16 Western points and had 87 yards rushing.

“Last week, Knep goes down for the season and Jacob comes in and runs for two scores,” said Jankovich. “Our guys have rallied behind him. He came out and fought his butt off and executed the game plan.”

Again, Northwestern countered with a long drive, setting up a first and goal from the five-yard line. But as the theme of the night went, they fumbled and Western’s Andrew Ault fell on the ball. Three lost fumbles and six missed opportunities in the red zone doomed the Tigers in a night when Richmond was 21 for 28 for 258 yards. In fact, the Tigers outgained the Panthers 407-224 on the night.

But despite the miscues, the Tigers were not done. The squad mounted a drive, culminating with a Richmond to Noah Dowden five-yard touchdown pass to cut the lead to 16-14 with 4:20 left. On the two-point conversion attempt, Richmond kept the ball and was stopped short of the goal line.

Freshman Kitchel Gifford (5-foot-11, 175 pounds) was sensational for Western, running for 122 yards on 29 carries. He saw extended playing time as Brooklyn Watters was battling a minor injury.

Cardwell added 94 yards rushing for Northwestern while Miller had six catches for 83 yards. Noah Dowden also had nine catches for 118 yards.

Western (2-5, 1-1 in the Hoosier Conference East Division) travels to Hamilton Heights (3-2, 2-0 in HC East) Friday night. Northwestern (3-4, 1-1 in HC East) hits the road for a matchup against Hoosier Heartland Conference member Carroll (4-3).


Football - Kokomo


KOKOMO, Ind. – For the first time since 2011, Wildkat Nation is excited for football. Not an “it’s football season” kind of excitement but a genuine “this team is for real” excitement. At 6-0 and in control of the North Central Conference, the 2015 Kokomo Wildkats are lighting scoreboards across the conference, and in the process, rewriting several key entries in the record book.

Last Friday at Walter Cross Field, Muncie Central (3-3) became the latest victim of a sensational Kokomo offense as the Wildkats topped the Bearcats 63-28. The win marked the second time this season Kokomo has scored more than 60 points and was the Kats eighth win over Muncie Central in the last nine years.

In a game of sectional opponents, Kokomo made a statement early – and late – that this year’s squad is the one to beat. Three Wildkat runners cracked the 100-yard rushing mark as the squad tied a school record with nine rushing touchdowns. The Wildkats also set a school record with 601 total yards of offense, breaking the record of 587 yards it set in week two against Indianapolis Arsenal Tech.

“We have a good team,” said Kokomo coach Brett Colby. “I don’t know how good we are yet, though. I will let you know in three weeks how good we are. We have some things we want to accomplish this year.”

Bruising 6-foot-2, 260-pound senior running back Marcelle Kenner set the tone early as a dominating force with a pair of first quarter touchdowns (11 and six yard runs). Then the game turned into the Jeron Gray Show as he left an impression on the Bearcats defense that they will not soon forget. The Wildkat senior ran the pigskin 26 times and found the end zone on six occasions – breaking the school mark of five held by five different Kats. Gray had scoring jaunts of 1, 2, 14, 5, 43 and 22 yards.

“Jeron is a great kid and had his biggest night of his career tonight,” said Colby. “He is a little kid (5-foot-8, 165-pounds) with a big heart. And he not only runs well, be blocks well. That is how Marcelle gets yards – blocking by Jeron and others.”

By the time the starters called it a day, Gray had his second career 200-yard game with 215, plus another 10 yards receiving. Kenner finished with 108 yards on 14 carries and three touchdowns (his third was for 18-yards in the third stanza). Not to be outdone, Keenen Wheeler rushed 11 times for 120 yards, and while he did not have a touchdown he did catch a 2-point conversion from Kyle Wade.

Speaking of Wade, the Kats quarterback cracked 100-yards through the air. The sophomore completed six of eight passes for 114 yards.

“It is hard to prepare for all of those different options,” Colby said of the quintet of 100-yard performers. “I am glad we are able to do that.”

On defense, Jordan Matthews added to his school record with his 14th career interception. DeShaun Barbary led the squad with 11 tackles and a sack. Wheeler had an interception, Homecoming King Jesse Johnson recovered a fumble and Jack Perkins had eight tackles – including a huge tackle for a loss on fourth down as the Bearcats were looking to score from the six-yard line late in the second quarter.

“It was 28-14 and they have the ball first and 10 on the 20,” explained Colby. “We end up getting a stop (Perkins tackle) and then go down and score. Talk about a momentum shift. We put 14 points on the board back-to-back after turnovers – one on downs and one on a fumble.”

But as the record books continue to shatter with this squad, Colby knows he can get more out his Kats.

“Great result, but you have to get better,” said Colby, who has a record of 67-22 at Kokomo. “It was a sloppy game. We had turnovers that never should have happened, missed tackles and penalties – things that we have not done all year.”

Kokomo (4-0 in NCC) has a one-game lead over Richmond and McCutcheon in the conference race. The Kats have already defeated McCutcheon and travel to Richmond in week nine. Kokomo hosts Logansport (1-5, 1-3 NCC) this Friday night at 7 p.m.


Dan Dunn 1


KOKOMO, Ind. – At the Indiana State Horseshoes Tournament held at Kokomo’s Highland Park, Kokomo residents Dan Dunn and Ted Sprinkle battled for the top spot in the Championship Elder’s Division. Sprinkle was the three-time defending champion and Dunn has several state and national titles under his belt. But in the end, Dunn cruised to his first Elder’s Division state title with a 4-0 record to Sprinkle’s 3-1.

The new champion dominated play, scoring 165 points and 137 ringers (on 172 throws) for a ringer percentage of 79.65 during the tournament. Sprinkle, the runner-up, scored 133 points and had a 61.44 ringer percentage on 145 total ringers (out of 236 throws).

“I’ve been second in the World Tournament and the State Tournament several times and I made up my mind that I wasn’t going to take second again,” said Dunn. “I pitched well, approximately 18 percent higher than anyone else in the field; I guess that I was just due.”

During the two-day tournament, 121 of the best horseshoe pitchers visited Kokomo for the state finals. The event was sanctioned by the Indiana Horseshoe Pitchers Association. Competitor’s enjoyed perfect weather during their visit to Kokomo, and Dunn said the Kokomo Parks and Recreation Department provided pitchers with outstanding courts.

“The weather was good,” said Dunn. “The Parks Department did an excellent job manicuring the courts. A good crowd from around the state was there and it was nice to show off our park, the city and our horseshoe club. We’re really fortunate to have the facilities we have since most cities don’t.”

Dunn is no stranger to horseshoe success. In 2014, he was a Class A national champion in the National Horseshoe Pitchers Association Team World Tournament. He had a national title in 2007 at the National Senior Olympics (age 65-69 division). Dunn also won the Indiana Senior Olympics title in 2006, 2011 and 2012.

Dunn’s ringer percentage at the 2015 state finals was the highest of any competitor during the state tournament, with Championship Elder Division fourth place finisher Phil Gross hitting at a rate of 64.52 percent. Championship Women’s Division winner Sue Snyder went 4-0 and had the third best ringer percentage at 64.29. And Championship Men’s Division winner Dale Moles (7-0) had a 64.02 ringer percentage. For Jasper native Snyder, it was her 10th Women’s Division state title.

Greentown’s James Miller, took top honors in Class F2. He finished the tournament 5-0 with 197 points and 64 ringers.

Sharpsville’s Bill White Sr. earned a state championship trophy in Class F1. He finished 4-2 with 201 points on 80 ringers.

Tipton’s Maria Harris earned state championship honors in Class J1. She finished the tourney 4-1 with 128 points and 36 ringers.

Other division state champions included: Class A1 Richard Mills, Class A2 Carl Sizemore, Class B1 David Moles, Class B2 Mary Sproessig, Class C1 Roger Upton, Class C2 Jim Watson, Class D1 Charlie Campbell, Class D2 Chuck Wothke, Class E1 Jerry Lothridge, Class E2 Dennie Moles, Class G1 Roger Geyer, Class G2 Dwight Silvers, Class H1 Chet Ross, Class H2 Bill Hively and Class J2 George Large.

In all, 21 pitchers from Kokomo, Russiaville and Greentown participated in the state tournament: Joe McKeeman, seventh in Championship Men; Bob Blessing, third in Class A2; Rick Walters, third in Class B1; Jerry Monticue, sixth in Class B1; Bill Harmon, fourth in Class B2; Roger Flick, second in Class C1; Otis Porter, third in Class C1; Rick Kiser, fourth in Class C1; Jennifer Luckey, second in Class D1; Fred Tragesser, fourth in Class D2; Michael Isaac, second in Class E1; Dave Waltman, second in Class E2; Jim Cockrell, fifth in Class G1; Dick Dwigans, second in Class G2; Mary Miller, third in Class H1; Donald Luckey, fourth in Class H2; Roy Walker, fifth in Class H2; and Robert Taylor, second in Class J2.

Tipton County competitors included: Gene Sallee, fourth in Class C2; Charlene Brown, fourth in Class D1; Doug Harris, sixth in Class D1; Roger Brown Jr., fifth in Class J1; and Ashleigh Peach, fourth in Class J2.