THE DEAN'S LIST BY DEAN HOCKNEY
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.