THE DEAN’S LIST BY DEAN HOCKNEY
Maybe someone forgot to send Kokomo football head coach Brett Colby the memo. Or maybe he just didn’t care. Regardless, he needs to take heed that Kokomo High School is NOT a football school. Basketball, yes. Baseball, of course. But not football.
Or is it?
Eleven years ago, Colby brought his run-first football mentality to a program that was in shambles – in the midst of a six-year stretch of losing campaigns. Before it was in shambles, it’s success was a hit-and-miss program. I am not saying it was a failure, but it was not a program that struck fear in the eyes of its opponents.
Let’s face it, when Colby arrived in Kokomo from Frankfort, the Wildkat football program had nine wins in its previous three seasons. And from 1973 to 2006 – from the start of the IHSAA state football tournament to the year before Colby arrived – the Kats were hovering around the .500 mark at 173-168. Take out the 1985 squad – which won the programs first and only sectional championship to that point in time – and the team was below .500.
That is not to take away from some very good football teams; the 1996 squad finished 10-1. But 18 times Kokomo was under the .500 mark – and even worse in tournament play. From 1985 to 2006, Kokomo was 13-22 in the playoffs with one sectional championship. With Colby in charge, the Kats are 12-11 with three sectional titles, two regional championships, one semi-state trophy – and we all know what happened last weekend when the Kats finished as the Class 5A state runners-up.
I get it, though. The competition may be deemed easier with the addition of Class 6A. When Westfield and Fort Wayne Snider and Carmel and Ben Davis moved up to the top class, that eased the field for the Kats to run through the competition. Even so, Kokomo knocked off four straight higher-ranked teams this year in tournament play. And an easier Class 5A is simply the hand that has been dealt – and Kokomo has made the best of the opportunity as it was presented.
With Colby in charge, Kokomo has 11 consecutive seasons of at least a .500 or better record – the longest such streak since 12 consecutive winning seasons from 1955-1966. That streak occurred prior to the state tournament and included some of the best Wildkat teams in history – including the mythical state champion 10-0 squad in 1964 and a 9-0 campaign in 1957.
Colby’s 90 victories at Kokomo are second most in Wildkat history (Bob Hamilton has 147), he is first in winning percentage at .743, first in North Central Conference Coach of the Year awards with six and his teams own seven NCC titles in 11 years.
For those who say his offense is “boring,” I say hog wash. Would you rather have a winning program or an exciting offense? And let me tell you, when kids like Armon Bridgeforth (2008-2011) and Jeron Gray (2012-2015) and Bo Baker (2011-2014) are running the ball out of Colby’s compact double wing, that is exciting football. And don’t forget, Kyle Wade has two of the three best passing seasons in Kokomo history – so coach knows how to open it up and go airborne (at least a little).
My hat goes off to Coach Colby and the entire Kokomo football program. In the last three school years, Kokomo boys teams have won six IHSAA sectional titles – and three of those belong to the football program. So, who says Kokomo is not a football school? With Brett Colby in charge, the football trophy case is constantly growing. Yep, maybe Kokomo is a football school after all.
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, Hit Country WWKI sports contributor and the public address voice of the Kokomo Jackrabbits and other events. You can follow him on Twitter (@Sports_Journal) for the latest in local sports news and in-game reports.