Archive for September 23, 2011

IUK COUGAR VOLLEYBALL

IU Kokomo's Liz Barney and Jenna Pelling go for a block against Grace College.

BY DEAN HOCKNEY

On Aug. 27, the Indiana University Kokomo volleyball team made its collegiate debut in a loss to Indiana Tech. Fourteen days later, the upstart squad grabbed the programs first win with a 25-22, 25-22 victory over the Grace College Lancers – a win many were surprised happened at such an early stage of the program.

“This is an amazing accomplishment for our team,” said Cougars head coach Kristen Snoddy. “We have come together in a short amount of time and have proven we are competitive and driven. I am so proud of all the players.”

IUK Chancellor Michael Harris, who traveled to Winona Lake and witnessed the IUK athletic department’s first win in any sport, shared the proud moment with the team.

“I am thrilled to share this amazing experience with the coaches and the team who have worked so hard to reach this goal,” he said. “They are fulfilling the dream and vision of the campus by proving to be a first-rate team. This is a great, historic day for IU Kokomo and its future as a world class regional campus.”

Four days later, Grace traveled to Kokomo and avenged the loss (25-27, 25-19, 22-25, 20-25), but Snoddy said she is pleased with where the program is despite the setback.

“I have told the girls we are accomplishing a lot,” said Snoddy. “Everyone can see we are improving from match-to-match, but the girls are not happy because we are not winning. But that is okay – they are competitors and that is what we want on the team. So I try and help them see the big picture.”

Snoddy recognizes that most of these players have been together for only two or three months, so she understands the patience that is needed to form the team. But at the same time, she sees great potential in the talent on the floor.

“We are still making a lot of mistakes and unforced errors,” she said. “We have to keep pounding away and getting better. I think we still have more wins left in us before the end of the season. Our girls have put a lot of time and work into this.”

As evidenced by the close score in the 3-1 loss to Grace, the Cougars are playing competitively in most matches. And while she would not accept moral victories, Snoddy is happy with the play of her team.

“We are not that far off,” said Snoddy. “I think every team we play this year is a recruited team, so for us to be in these games in our first year is a plus. I was a little afraid that teams were going to pound us night in and night out, but that hasn’t happened.”

Snoddy also said she is thrilled with the attendance the squad is getting from supporters of the program. When the Lady Cougars won at Grace College, IUK had more spectators in the stands than the host team. And when the team returned for a home match at Northwestern High School last week, hundreds showed up to cheer them on, including Kokomo Mayor Greg Goodnight and Chancellor Harris.

“A lot of people are coming that have never watched volleyball before and we are creating a sense of community on the campus,” Snoddy said. “We have played at some really nice facilities and they have not had the fan support at those locations. But we have had great support. (College athletics) is something the community has been hungry for.”

The Cougars return to action on Sept. 23 at Ancilla College. They return home for a 7 p.m. match at Northwestern on Sept. 29 to take on Indiana Tech.

WILDKAT DEFENSE EXPOSED BY IU RECRUIT ADAM KRANDA

New Castle's Adam Kranda puts a stiff-arm on a Wildkat defender en route to a 200-yard rushing performance. Kranda will play at IU next season.

(SPORTS JOURNAL WEB EXCLUSIVE) BY DEAN HOCKNEY

NEW CASTLE – Kokomo Wildkat defense, meet Mr. Kranda.

Despite a 0-2 start, much of which is attributed to the injury of record-setting running back Armon Bridgeforth, the Wildkat defense has held opponents in check  through the first four games of 2011. But Friday night against New Castle – a team Kokomo had beaten in 31 consecutive outings – the Kat defense was exposed by the running of Indiana University recruit Adam Kranda.

The outcome of the game was the same as it always is with Kokomo winning its 32nd consecutive North Central Conference game, 55-21, while breaking its school rushing record with a team total of 514 yards. But while the Kats have its sights on a fifth straight NCC crown, small cracks appeared in a defense that was giving up just 168.7 yards per game heading into New Castle (0-5). The Trojans carried the football 46 times for 303 yards, easily doubling the previous season high of 144 yards Kokomo (3-2 and 3-0 since the return of Bridgeforth) gave up in a 21-14 loss to Plainfield in week two.

“They had over 300 yards rushing; when was the last time you have seen that (against Kokomo),” asked Wildkat head coach Brett Colby after the game. “Never! I mean, that is ridiculous.”

The 303 yards marked the first time a Colby-led Wildkat defense had given up more than 300 rushing yards. Huntington North rushed for 338 yards against Kokomo in 2006 – the year before Colby arrived in Kokomo.

Kranda, a 6-foot-5, 240-pound senior, who has committed to play for new Hoosier coach Kevin Wilson, scorched the Kats for 200 yards on 21 carries – the highlight of which was a 75 yard blast over the right tackle, followed by an outburst of speed that put the Trojans in the end zone and on the board. He followed that with a third quarter 23-yard halfback pass for a second Trojan touchdown, then finished his evening with a 28-yard run up the gut of the Kat defense for his second rushing score. In all, Kranda accounted for 242 of the Trojans 367 yards of total offense.

“That kid is a special player,” said Colby. “Take your hats off to him. He shakes them and bakes them. He makes kids miss, throws straight-arms; I mean, a lot of times we had kids there grabbing at air. He is a lot faster than you think he is. He is a good player and a lot better in person (than on film). He is a load and made us pay several times.”

Colby said despite Kranda’s outstanding game and athletic ability, he was still disappointed in Kokomo's effort on the defensive side of the football.

“I told them you get what you deserve and you practice like you play,” said Colby. “We had a sloppy week of preparation coming off the big game against Huntington North, our conference rival. We also played Saturday and had a short week of practice. It was a rough week, but I would rather come out of here with a win like we did. We will work on the defense. We just didn’t practice with a lot of energy last week and it showed.”

Kokomo will have a full week of practice to regain its defensive dominance. After four straight road games, Kokomo returns to Walter Cross Field on Friday night for the first time since the opening night of high school football. The Kats host Richmond (2-3, 2-1) at 7 p.m. Before Hoosier fans will get a chance to see Kranda in action in Bloomington, he will finish his high school career in New Castle, starting with a visit from the Anderson Indians (3-2, 2-1) Friday night.

KATS, PANTHERS, TIGERS GRAB KEY CONFERENCE WINS

Kokomo's Armon Bridgeforth eludes a New Castle defender en route to one of his three rushing touchdowns. (Photo By: DEAN HOCKNEY)

(SPORTS JOURNAL WEB EXCLUSIVE)

BY DEAN HOCKNEY

NEW CASTLE – The Streak lives.

For the 32nd consecutive year, the Kokomo Wildkats topped the New Castle Trojans in North Central Conference varsity football. Not since 1979 have the Trojans knocked off Kokomo in what may be the longest streak of its kind in Indiana. And this year’s rendition yielded the same result of so many previous clashes – a Kokomo blowout, this time in an easy 55-21 victory.

Kokomo (3-2, 3-0 in NCC play) didn’t waste any time in jumping on the scoreboard. After forcing a Trojan punt, Gordon Jenkins ran the Kats second play from scrimmage 64 yards for a touchdown. Five minutes later, quarterback Tayler Persons scooted down the New Castle sideline for a 50 yard score. And less than three minutes after the Persons score, Armon Bridgeforth took the pigskin 30 yards to the end zone for a 21-0 Kokomo lead after one quarter.

“We just had a little better team, that is what it came down to,” said Kokomo coach Brett Colby. “We just made the plays that needed to be made.”

Bridgeforth then did what he does so well – electrify the crowd. After Adam Kranda scored one of his two touchdowns for New Castle, the Kokomo senior and NCC rushing leader blew the game open with touchdown runs of 64 and 88 yards in a span of four minutes, giving the Kats a 34-7 halftime lead. Bo Butler would add a third quarter score for Kokomo, and Will Haynes closed the door on New Castle with a 78 yards touchdown run and an 82 yard kickoff return. When the dust had settled, Kokomo had six touchdown runs of 30 yards or more, and five that went 50 yards for more.

The 2011 win for Kokomo was one for the record books as the Kats racked up a school record 514 rushing yards, breaking  the previous record of 513 which was set just two years ago, also against the Trojans.

“We have speed, and it just isn’t Armon,” said Colby. “I am telling you, the other guys worked so hard while he was out (with an injury) that it is now paying dividends. The offensive line is not where it needs to be, but I still think this could be the best offensive line we have had.”

Bridgeforth, who missed the Kats first two games due to an injured hand, again led the Kokomo rushing attack with 228 yards and three touchdowns. In three NCC contests, he has tallied 624 rushing yards, eight touchdowns, a touchdown pass and a punt return for a touchdown. His 88 yard touchdown against New Castle (0-5, 0-3) was the fifth-longest run from scrimmage in Kokomo history. Haynes added another 112 yards on the ground, Jenkins 81 and Persons 80. Persons also led the defense with 14 tackles and an interception. Bo Butler added 13 tackles and Michael Copeland eight.

The win was also the 32nd consecutive NCC win for the Kats, who are now in the driver’s seat for a fifth consecutive outright conference championship.

Eastern 21, at Hamilton Heights 34

In a clash of Mid-Indiana Conference undefeated teams, the upstart Comets of Eastern had high hopes of downing the traditional MIC power Hamilton Heights (5-0, 3-0). But in the end, the Comets (4-1, 2-1) could not overcome the loss of its quarterback, who was suspended for the game after being ejected last week. All-State tight end Josiah Price, a Michigan State recruit, did an admirable job filling in the QB slot, and the Comets had a chance to tie the score late in the game. But a late turnover squashed the opportunity and Heights capitalized with a game-deciding touchdown in the final minutes.

Northwestern 42, at Taylor 3

Northwestern (4-1, 2-1) rebounded from a conference loss to Western last week by dismantling the Taylor Trojans (1-4, 1-2), who pulled an upset a week ago over Peru.

Western 64, at Maconaquah 0

In no surprise, Western (4-1, 3-0) continued on the road to a MIC title by cruising by Maconaquah (0-5, 0-3). But while Western may be looking ahead to an Oct. 7 showdown with Heights, the Comets of Eastern have Sep. 30 circled for a chance at a Panther upset.