North Central Conference


Here we go again, my annual look at the first two weeks of the North Central Conference football season. And like most years, it does not look pretty – although it is improved thanks to the addition of McCutcheon to the Conference of Champions. With McCutcheon being the only undefeated NCC team left at 2-0, the conference stands at 6-14 (.300 winning percentage) throughout the non-conference part of the schedule competed.

I will admit, that is an improvement over last year, where the NCC stood 2-12 (.143) at the same point in the season. For comparison, the NCC was 3-13 (.188) in 2012 and 4-12 (.250) in 2011 – the first year the Sports Journal covered high school football. If one takes out the three new Tippecanoe County squads, the conference would have four wins, which is still an improvement over last year.

Another telling stat is the scoring by NCC schools. In the first 20 games of 2014, the NCC has been outscored 367-615. If one averages out those numbers, the NCC is being outscored 18.35 to 30.75 points per game – which is better than where the conference stood one year ago after week two (16.71 to 36.35). So defenses are giving up nearly a touchdown less per game and offenses are scoring 1.6 points more per game.

But a big question that lingers is who the NCC defeats in the pre-conference schedule. In week one, the NCC was 4-6 with Class 5A Kokomo dropping down to defeat 4A Mt. Vernon, 4A Marion dropping down for a come-from-behind win over 2A Madison-Grant (a team Eastern beat last Friday) and 5A Richmond dropped down to beat 4A Connersville. That leaves only 5A McCutcheon with a solid win over 5A No. 10 Zionsville in week one. The NCC was 2-8 in week two, with 4A Logansport dropping down to beat 3A Peru and 5A McCutcheon dropping down to beat 3A West Lafayette.

Where does that leave the NCC? In games where they play bigger schools the conference is 0-2 (both courtesy of 5A Huntington North going up to play 6A teams). Against same classed schools it is 1-5 and against lower classed schools – where the NCC should dominate -  the conference is a 5-7.

As I was reminded by my friends last year at the Hancock County Sports Digest (Twitter @HancockCoSports), the much smaller Hoosier Heritage Conference is 24-3 against the NCC over the last four years, with Kokomo’s two wins over Mt. Vernon and Richmond beating Shelbyville in a sectional matchup as the lone bright spots for the once-mighty NCC against a conference that has zero Class 5A schools, six Class 4A programs and a pair of Class 3A affiliates (compared to the NCC’s one Class 6A program, six Class 5A and three Class 4A schools).

And to think, New Castle (1-1) has left the NCC for the HHC after losing 34 consecutive times to Kokomo. Since the 2000 campaign, the Trojans are a measly 18-124 (.126) – so good luck to New Castle in its new football conference.

With the NCC being strong in so many other sports, football just hasn’t kept pace. I really don’t have any commentary on this typically slow start by the conference; it is just interesting information and goes to show how the conference has fallen behind as football has picked up around Indiana. If anyone watched the Warren Central or Cathedral or Ben Davis or Carmel game highlights, you would have noticed how much those teams looked like small college programs. Thankfully, Kokomo has built new locker room facilities and is trying to improve the look of a huge money-making program.

As Wildkat fans know, the squad started strong against Mt. Vernon with a convincing victory. But last week’s defeat – and the way it happened – could be crushing to the psyche of the Kats. Kokomo has solid senior leadership while still being young at several key positions, so I hope they realize that was a non-conference loss. They stand at 1-1 with a loss to a ranked 5A team and rival Marion visits this Friday night. One loss doesn’t make a season, especially when the conference campaign hasn’t even started yet.

Until next time, remember to keep the man and ship in sports – and I’ll see you at the game.

Dean Hockney is the publisher of the Sports Journal of Central Indiana and sports editor of the Kokomo Herald. You can follow him on Twitter (@Sports_Journal) for the latest in local sports news and game reports.



Nolan Sanburn pitching for the Stockton Ports. (Photo provided)

Nolan Sanburn pitching for the Stockton Ports. (Photo provided)

CHICAGO - The Chicago White Sox have traded designated hitter Adam Dunn and cash considerations to Oakland in exchange for right-handed pitcher Nolan Sanburn, a Kokomo high School graduate. Sanburn, 23, is 3-1 with a 3.28 ERA (26 earned runs/71.1 innings pitched), six saves and 73 strikeouts in 42 relief appearances this season with Class A Stockton of the California League. The 6-foot-0, 175-pound Sanburn has thrown 2 innings or more 21 times for Stockton. His White Sox assignment has not been determined.

The former Wildkat is 4-5 with a 2.93 ERA (39 ER/120.0 IP) and 118 strikeouts in 65 games (nine starts) over three minor-league seasons. Sanburn was ranked by Baseball America as the No. 10 Prospect in the A’s organization entering the 2014 season and the No. 10 Prospect by entering the 2013 campaign. Sanburn was selected by Oakland in the second round of the 2012 draft out of the University of Arkansas.

Dunn, 34, is hitting .220 (80-363) with 20 home runs, 54 RBIs and 65 walks in 106 games with the White Sox this season. He owns a career .237 (1,617-6,817) average with 460 home runs, 1,158 RBIs, 1,091 runs scored and 1,311 walks over 14 major-league seasons with Cincinnati (2001-08), Arizona (2008), Washington (2009-10) and the White Sox (2011-14). Dunn ranks 36th all-time in home runs and 42nd in walks. Among active players, he ranks second in walks and third in homers.

Courtesy of the Chicago White Sox



Indiana University Kokomo Cougars


KOKOMO, Ind. – What a difference a week makes. After starting the season with five consecutive losses, the Indiana University Kokomo women’s volleyball squad is beginning to meet its lofty pre-season expectations. Two days after its first win of the season, the Cougars made it an official winning streak with a 25-14, 26-24, 25-23 victory over Goshen College.

“Each game, we get a little better. This was our best performance of the season so far,” said IUK head coach Heather Hayes. “They are a powerful offensive team, and we were able to pick up their shots. I think we got a glimpse of our potential tonight.”

The Cougars wasted little time in exerting its Cougar Gym home court advantage. After giving up the first point of the night, IU Kokomo soared to an 18-7 lead thanks to solid net play and a defense that Hayes said is quickly improving.

“I think we came out engaged for this game,” she said.

The Cougars looked to be on the way to an easy win in game two, leading 11-8 and continuing its strong defensive play. But Goshen showed some life and scored nine of 10 points to eventually lead 19-14. A kill from the strong arm of freshman Lexi Brickner (Wabash, Ind./Southwood) pointed Kokomo in the right direction, and back-to-back kills from Micayla Speidel (Columbus, Ind./Columbus East) pulled the Cougars to within one. Kokomo tied the contest three times down the stretch but found itself trailing 23-24 with Goshen serving. A strong play at the net by Kokomo’s Keeana Walton (Peru, Ind./Maconaquah) put the ball in the hands of server Casey Colgate (Indianapolis/Lutheran), who scored the final two points of the game thanks to a block from Walton and a soaring kill from Lindi Thomas (Parker City, Ind./Wapahani).

“I want to commend our team for being able to come back,” said Hayes. “That is something we haven’t been able to do in any match this year. So that is big. To do that against a good team shows how much we have come along in a short time.”

Kokomo again found itself with a quick 10-5 lead in the third game, only to allow Goshen to tie the contest at 18. The Maple Leafs (2-2) and Cougars would battle through four ties and three lead changes in the stretch run before Thomas sealed her second consecutive game with another kill – giving the Cougars its second win in three nights.

“I think we needed the win against Marian (University on Aug. 27) to gain some confidence,” said Hayes. “I knew we were capable. We showed more maturity tonight, especially since we are a still a young group; we only have one senior. We are only scratching the surface of our potential.”

Thomas led Kokomo with 14 kills (.233 hit percentage), 13 digs and a pair of aces. Speidel had eight kills and Elyse Younger (Fishers, Ind./Fishers) added seven. Setter Cortney Hanson (Logansport, Ind./Pioneer) ran the offense with a team-high 18 assists and an ace while libero Lael Larrick (Denver, Ind./North Miami) had 20 digs on defense. Kaleigh Ensley (Fort Wayne, Ind./Snider) finished with 14 digs and two aces. Colgate had a solid night with 12 assists and four digs.

The Cougars (2-5) hit the road for a three-game trip before returning to Cougar Gym on Sept. 11 for Military Appreciation Night. All veterans and active duty service personnel will be admitted free for the 7 p.m. contest against Indiana University East.