New Kokomo football head coach is seen calling defense for the Kats during the Class 5A state finals last November. (SJ photo/William Gibson)

KOKOMO, Ind. – When asked why he thought he was ready to be the head coach, newly-approved Kokomo High School varsity football coach Richard Benberry Jr., cited great teachers, such as Brett Colby at Kokomo and Jason West at Warren Central.

“Some great football coaches worked with me and took the time to share their experiences with me; and now, I can bring 17 years of knowledge to the football field,” Benberry explained. “For the returning players and coaches, this should be an easier transition. They know me, and my expectations. Coupled with what Coach Colby created during his 11 seasons, I hope to continue building on those Kokomo football traditions.”

At its regular monthly meeting on March 5, the Kokomo School Corporation Board of School Trustees approved Benberry as the new Kokomo varsity football head coach. Benberry, 39, and his wife Carolyn have two children: a daughter Chandler (6) and a son Carter (3).

Benberry has spent the past three football seasons as the Wildkats defensive coordinator. Coach Benberry still remembers that first serious football meeting with Colby.

“We sat down and Brett allowed me to sell him my defensive philosophy,” Benberry explained. “It took only one meeting, and that speaks volumes about Coach Colby. At the end of that session, Coach Colby stands up, shakes my hand and says: ‘I believe in you … Let’s go!’ That trust was huge, and it never wavered during our three seasons working together.”

KHS Athletic Director Jason Snyder is excited to have Benberry leading the Wildkats football program.

“Coach Benberry has been a major part of the recent success of our Kokomo football program, and his familiarity with the program is going to allow for a smooth transition for our players and coaches,” Snyder said. “We hope to continue building on the foundation Coach Colby has established, and we feel Coach Benberry can lead our football program to continued success.”

The other key piece of coaching knowledge that Benberry learned from Colby was: “relationships are important!”

“I learned that it was important to have a relationship with each and every player,” Benberry noted. “Those relationships must be with ALL players, and not just some players. The proof is in the pudding … look at Coach Colby’s record: seven NCC (North Central Conference) titles, three sectionals, two regionals, and a semi-state … those relationships and that success galvanized this community and I simply plan to continue that tradition.”

Before coming to Kokomo, Benberry spent the 2013 football season as the varsity defensive line coach helping his alma mater (class of 1996) Warren Central and head coach Jason West win the Class 6A state championship.

“With Coach West, everything had a family atmosphere – meetings, practice, games,” Benberry said. “I also learned that the game of football lasts for a few moments, but those relationships last a lifetime. Coach West also helped me understand organizational skills … in a program that big, you have to trust people to do their jobs. Since then, I have learned that is true no matter what the size of the program.”

Overall, Benberry has 17 years of experience in coaching football, including assistant offensive coordinator/offensive line coach at Indianapolis Arsenal Tech in 2012; varsity safeties coach/junior varsity defensive coordinator at Guerin Catholic from 2009 to 2011; and varsity linebackers coach/junior varsity head coach at Lawrence North from 2003 to 2008.

“Those coaching experiences have made me a more well-rounded coach,” Benberry explained. “Coaching different skills areas allowed me to learn on the job. My coaches have been great teachers; but at the same time, they allowed me to learn by seeking my input. I even helped coach quarterbacks as I was asked to help them learn how to read defensive coverages.”

Benberry views his new position as varsity head football coach with a “hold the rope” mentality.

“Everyone has a job to do while holding the rope, but one person has to be in that anchor spot … I am that anchor with the rope tied around my waist,” Benberry said. “To win, we must pull as a team. If someone slips, I am the anchor while they regain their footing. But we – the players, the coaches, the school, the organization, the community – must pull together if we are going to continue building the football program and continue being successful.”

In order to focus on coaching and family, Benberry requested a non-administrative assignment at Kokomo High School for the 2018-2019 school year. The Board approved Benberry’s request as part of the football coaching recommendation. Benberry’s first regular season varsity game as head football coach will be at on August 7 at New Palestine.

Courtesy of the Kokomo School Corporation

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Stephanie Burns in action during the Class 3A state finals at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. (SJ photo/Douglas Hockney)

KOKOMO, Ind. – After helping to lead the Northwestern Lady Tigers to the IHSAA Class 3A state championship, junior Stephanie Burns capped her sensational weekend by being named the IBCA/Subway Girls Player of the Week for District 2.

Burns totaled 17 points, eight rebounds, one steal and one block as the Northwestern girls (29-1) knocked off Greensburg 63-42 for the Class 3A title. The 6-1 center was a perfect 6-of-6 on field goals plus 5-of-7 on free throws in helping the Tigers claim their school’s first girls basketball championship.

Burns was also named the Sports Journal Player of the Game and Kokomo Tribune Athlete of the Week after the game.

The Lady Tigers book-ended the Player of the Week program for the 2017-2018 season. In week one, sophomore Madison Layden earned the award.

From the Indiana Basketball Coaches Association

Warren Central’s Shaila Beeler, Northwestern’s Stephanie Burns, Central Noble’s Sydney Freeman and Marquette Catholic’s Sophia Nolan – juniors all – helped her respective team to an IHSAA girls basketball state championship, and that quartet leads the honorees in this week’s IBCA/Subway Player of the Week program.

Southwood senior Carson Blair, Cloverdale senior Jalen Moore, Zionsville junior Isaiah Thompson, Center Grove junior Trayce Jackson-Davis and New Albany senior Romeo Langford share boys’ honors for Feb. 19-24 in the recognition program coordinated by the Indiana Basketball Coaches Association.

Blair, Freeman and Nolan are honorees for District 1. Moore, Thompson, Beeler and Burns are winners for District 2. Jackson-Davis and Langford are recipients in District 3.

This is the 10th season for the Indiana Basketball Coaches Association Player of the Week program and the sixth season it is presented by Subway Restaurants of Indiana, a banner sponsor of the IBCA. Subway, in its seventh season as an IBCA sponsor, encourages athletes to “train hard and eat fresh.”

Player of the Week winners generally are chosen each week from each of the IHSAA’s three districts. The girls’ season is now complete. Boys’ winners will be chosen through the week following March 24.


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Northwestern seniors Sarah Vas, Kora Loer and Morgan Mercer pose with the championship hardware. (SJ photo/Douglas Hockney)


KOKOMO, Ind. – For three young women, it was a trip of a lifetime. For 32 minutes of game action, they earned enough memories to last forever – an Indiana high school basketball state championship.

And while none of the three were the stars of the show, they each contributed significantly as the No. 1-ranked Northwestern Lady Tigers won the IHSAA Class 3A state championship with a 63-42 win over No. 2 Greensburg.

“It was a once in a lifetime experience since I am a senior,” said Morgan Mercer, whose role on the team was a spark off the bench. “It was cool.”

Kora Loer, the second of the three seniors, averaged 2.7 points per game this season while playing as a spot player in the post.

“It’s pretty awesome,” said Loer of winning the state title. “No one has ever done this before at our school. Everyone is really supportive and behind us 100-percent. We have been playing so long that we have great chemistry – we know each other inside and out and I wouldn’t want to play on any other team.”

Sarah Vas, the only senior to start for the Tigers, was awarded the IHSAA Patricia L. Roy Mental Attitude Award after the game. Like Loer, she talked about how close knit the team is.

“We’re different; we are different than a lot of teams, because we bond,” she said. “We love being around each other. We’re obviously around each other a lot, so it’s really good that we have a good chemistry. And so this season has been awesome. We haven’t really had any faults, and I think that’s why we’re here and why we had such a good lead on them.”

While the trio’s stats are not as gaudy as other players on the team, they helped lay the foundation for where Northwestern is today. Head coach Kathie Layden has talked about the senior class and what they mean to the program. And now, she knows they will leave holes that others will need to fill – from practice preparation to game minutes.

“We have three seniors to replace,” said Layden. “That is going to be very hard to do.”

The seniors of 2018 will go down as the most successful class in Northwestern history after they brought home the state title. In four seasons, they finished with a record of 77-25 while winning one conference, two sectionals, one regional, one semi-state and the 2018 state championship.

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