BY DEAN HOCKNEY
KOKOMO, Ind. – Football, like most sports, can be a game of streaks. Unfortunately for the Taylor Titans, they are on the wrong end of a long streak – a 26-game losing streak dating to Sep. 15, 2011. After a pair of winning seasons in 2007 and 2008, the Titans have lost 46 of its last 51 contests on the gridiron. But the good thing about losing streaks is they will eventually come to an end, and the Titans are confident that they have made great strides in becoming competitive on Friday nights.
But before taking the field, they had to overcome a major setback. Four days into the 2014 Taylor High School football season, football head coach Eric Davis shocked the program by stepping down. Davis announced he accepted the head coaching position at Tri-County High School in White County, where he will also teach.
Girls basketball head coach and former football coach Dennis Bentzler, for the second time in his career, agreed to take over the program on an interim basis. While serving as the defensive coordinator in 2001, the Taylor graduate stepped-up to lead the program after the resignation of Tim Week’s. Bentzler led that squad to a 3-7 record after previous seasons of 1-9 and 2-8. Following his one-year stint, the Titans won two games over the next three years under Glenn Humerickhouse. With a long losing streak, Bentzler is ready to point the program in the right direction.
“Bottom line is, my family moved here in 1961 and we all graduated from Taylor – it is what I love,” said Bentzler. “Now, it is all about the kids and the community. It upsets me that people look down on Taylor. We have good hearts. We have lost some values for the kids and the school. I just couldn’t say no.”
Bentzler said on the first day he arrived at practice, only 18 kids were suited up. For last Friday’s scrimmage, 42 proudly wore the Titans helmet.
“We have some good athletes, but the program is where it’s at and I told the coaches this is going to be a learning experience for everybody,” he said. “I will take the heat, but I have challenged the kids to take on some responsibility. They seem very receptive and loose, and I think we will be competitive this year. As for wins and losses, I don’t know. But if we can do what we did in 2001, people will be happy. We will get the program pointed in the right direction.”
One thing that has changed in the last two weeks is the attitude of the players. Not only have the numbers increased drastically since Bentzler took over the program, but so has the motivation level.
“We have kids on board now, and I am not sure that was the case before,” said Bentzler. “We installed some discipline and it seems to be taking hold. We have guys that want to work like Dante Campbell and Darian Stone. And Parker VanMetre said, ‘Coach, I’ve got this.’ So he is now a speaking captain and senior leader on this team. Heck, Campbell may be one of the best running backs in the area. James Bell at 6-4 and 245 pounds and Tyler Howard who is a sophomore and Donovan Renbarger who is 6-7 – they are all ready to play football. I am just excited about the new culture we have and really don’t want to single anyone out.”
The Titans are under a new regime, of sorts. With Bentzler under the helm once again, Taylor should start moving in a positive direction. And with any luck, one of the longest losing streaks in Indiana could come to an end this season.