DEAN’S LIST: WE ARE FANS TOO (AND WE ARE TAKING A VACATION THROUGH THANKSGIVING)

THE DEAN’S LIST BY DEAN HOCKNEY

It is that time of year – time for the Sports Journal team to take a short sabbatical and recharge our batteries. We are an extremely small group, so we typically value the down time between seasons. And now is that time as the fall sports are now done and the winter sports are just beginning with girls basketball games.

Last year, that was not the case. After three weeks of the football postseason, the Kokomo Wildkats were still alive. And then they were alive after four weeks … and five … and yes, the Kats played into the sixth and final week of the state football tournament before falling in the state championship game.

Now don’t get me wrong, I want to be covering a local team in the Elite Eight, Final Four and onto Lucas Oil Stadium. I want the season to interrupt my Thanksgiving plans. I want the start of a local boys basketball squad to be delayed while football is still ongoing. I can’t speak for all journalists, but I am a fan – when a Howard County squad finds success, I am thrilled. I love watching student-athletes I have covered hoist championship trophies – whether it is in the conference, sectional or state.

And don’t forget, when a local team heads to the state finals – much like football did one year ago – the Sports Journal and other publications up their games as well. It is kind of like our state finals, too. We head to state finals press conferences, write feature stories, talk about the opponent, prepare and publish special state finals editions and saturate social media.

As we swing into the winter sports season, we are also gearing up for at least one run for a state championship; of course, I am talking about the Northwestern Lady Tigers. And that should be a fun run, especially with the beefed-up schedule the team is playing this season, which includes several teams ranked in the all-class preseason Top 20 poll.

But that doesn’t mean we will be ignoring other sports, such as swimming, gymnastics, boys basketball and wrestling. Our cameras will be out and about this winter, dodging the ice patches and frigid temperatures to get inside where it is warm and sporty, with the smell of popcorn filling the air and thrilling action on the playing surface.

But until then, we will be on a short break from publishing the Sports Journal. I will still be out watching games with my cell phone in hand to bring you the latest via social media. Greg Rakestraw and the ISC Sports Network crew will be in Kokomo next week to film another edition of the Video Sports Journal, so make sure to catch that at iscsportsnetwork.com. The regular weekly edition of the Sports Journal will return on December 4. While we are gone, please salute a veteran on Veterans Day, enjoy family and friends on Thanksgiving … and VOTE TODAY!

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 award-winning Sports Journal of Central Indiana and the public address voice of Kokomo Municipal Stadium for the Wildkats and Jackrabbits. You can follow him on Twitter (@Sports_Journal) for the latest in local sports news and in-game reports.

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KOKOMO FOOTBALL FALLS IN THE CLASS 5A SWEET SIXTEEN

Kokomo junior Jeremy Baker winces in pain as he has his lower leg twisted on the Wildkats first drive. (SJ photo/RANDY MESSNER)

BY DEAN HOCKNEY

KOKOMO, Ind. – Three years ago, Walter Cross Field was the home of a history-making moment when the Kokomo Wildkats won its first sectional championship in 30 years. Last Friday night, the stadium witnessed another long streak that came to an end as Harrison won its first sectional championship since 1994. In the process of Harrison’s 19-16 win, the Kokomo Wildkats also saw its three-year stranglehold on the Class 5A Sectional 11 trophy come to an end.

“Harrison made the plays they needed to make and we did not,” said first-year Kokomo head coach Richard Benberry.

After starting the season 0-5, Kokomo entered the contest on a five-game win streak and plenty of momentum thanks to a victory over Harrison the previous month and a sectional opening upset of No. 10 McCutcheon. Much of the improvement came at the hands of the running game and the midseason arrival of Jeremy Baker, who rattled off four 100-yard rushing games during the win streak.

But on this night, the game started on a sour note and end on a worse one. On the Wildkats seventh play from scrimmage, and already trailing 7-0, Baker got his lower leg tangled with a pair of Raider defenders and came limping off the field. The 6-foot-2, 182-pound junior runner spent the rest of the first half and much of the third quarter trying to get back in the game. Meanwhile, the Kats running game came to a screeching halt, which in turn allowed Harrison to key on the passing game.

“He was ready to go in, but he was hobbled,” said Benberry. “It is a next-man-up mentality for us.”

Harrison (6-5) took the opening kickoff and drove 62 yards on four plays – the drive was capped by a Steve Coffing 10-yard touchdown run. Kokomo scored on the drive Baker was hurt on, courtesy of an Anjelo Flores 20-yard field goal. The Kats took a 10-7 lead after Kohl Beard picked off Andrew Jensen and returned it 47 yards into the red zone. Following a Levi Hrabos to Brady Wiese 12-yard completion, Hrabos called his own number for a quarterback back sneak into the end zone late in the first quarter.

Both squads’ defenses then took over, forcing the two North Central Conference foes into a punting battle and a 10-7 halftime score.

Kokomo took the second half kickoff and had little success. Hrabos, also the Kats punter, then faced a stiff rush, which resulted in a rushed punt that covered just nine-yards. Six plays later, Harrison tied the game on a 27-yard field goal by Brian Pennell.

Following more stellar defense resulting in both teams punting, Harrison took a 17-10 lead with 5:18 left. After a nice punt by Hrabos was fair caught at the Raiders 19, Jensen led Harrison on an 11 play, 81-yard drive that culminated in a Jensen to Jake Smith four-yard score.

But Kokomo was not ready to give up and the Kats found their way into the end zone 17 seconds later. After a horrible Harrison kickoff that placed the ball at the Kokomo 41, Hrabos hit Noah Cameron on a seven-yard strike; but instead of going down, Cameron hit a streaking Steven Edwards on a hook-and-ladder. Edwards then fumbled the ball forward, caught the ball while still in mid-stride, and raced 50 yards before being forced out of bounds at the two. On the next play, Baker spun his way into the end zone to trim the lead to 17-16. But the snap for the point after was off mark and the holder could not get the ball down for the extra point, resulting in the Kats down one point with 5:01 remaining.

“I can’t put the game on that moment,” said Benberry. “There was other stuff that was missed that we should have taken advantage of but didn’t. It was a collective effort.”

Kokomo’s defense then held strong, forcing Harrison to punt for the fourth time in the game. Steven Edwards took the punt 17-yards to the Kokomo 31 with 2:38 remaining. But as he was tackled out of bounds, Kokomo was flagged for a 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty, apparently on a Wildkat on the sidelines who was not involved in the play. That immediately shifted the momentum from Kokomo to Harrison as the defense sacked Hrabos on the first play for a 13-yard loss, placing the ball second-and-23 at the three-yard line. Hrabos then went long twice, missing Edwards both times. He was then sacked for a fifth time, this time resulting in a safety. Kokomo could not recover the on-side kick and Harrison ran out the clock and ran onto the field to grab its long-awaited sectional trophy.

Hrabos finished the contest 16-28-0 for 208 yards. Wiese had four catches for 53 yards and Edwards caught three for 72 yards. The Kats running game, with Baker injured, finished with just one-yard rushing. The defense was stellar for Kokomo as it held Harrison to 209 total yards – All-State candidate Javias Gray ended his career with nine tackles (two for a loss) and Jabrian Adams added seven tackles.

Despite the 5-6, Kokomo showed vast improvements as it switched from a run-first offense to a spread offense. That allowed Hrabos to set Kokomo single-season records in pass attempts (269), pass completions (135), passing yards (2,037) and tie the record for touchdowns (17). He also became the first Kokomo quarterback to ever average more than 200 yards per game passing, finishing at 203.7.

Edwards finished with a single-season records for receiving yards (996), receptions (47) and touchdowns (9).

After thanking his seniors, Benberry said he was ready for year two. When asked if it would start on Monday, he responded, “It starts tonight.”

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HOWARD COUNTY SPORTS HALL OF FAME INDUCTS SEVEN INTO ITS CLASS OF 2018

BY DEAN HOCKNEY

KOKOMO, Ind. – In front of hundreds of attendees last Saturday evening at the Creative Financial Centre auditorium in Kokomo, seven legends from various sports were inducted into the 16th class of the Howard County Sports Hall of Fame. With smiles, tears and stories, the inductees thanked those gathered while an adoring audience listened to Jacqueline Bagwell, Mark Gabriel, Gary Mumaw, Mick Owens, Willard Rice, Cari Stover-Richards and Ricke Stucker talk about their lives.

While six of the seven still live in Indiana, one made a long journey from the East Coast, returning to the City of Firsts for the first time in years.

“It is great to be back and see everybody.,” said Bagwell, who now lives in Massachusetts. “It has been awhile since I have been back. Kokomo and Howard County was such a great place to grow up.”

Bagwell played sports at Haworth High School, graduating in 1980, just as the IHSAA was beginning to recognize girls athletics. Thus, she grew up playing a lot of sports with her male counterparts.

“We didn’t have a lot of organized sports for girls,” recalled Bagwell. “But the guys let me play football and baseball and basketball – which was my love. I was also very involved in the high jump – I was the three-time middle school champion. I played volleyball and basketball in high school – and then I changed to tennis instead of the high jump.”

Making the change to tennis turned out to be a great choice. With the help of 2004 Howard County Sports Hall of Fame inductee Charlie Hall, she earned a scholarship to continue her tennis career at Columbus State University before finishing at the University of Texas-Permian Basis. After graduating from Indiana University, she began coaching tennis – first on a one-on-one basis before moving to Hamilton College in New York. The next year, Amherst University hired her – and that is where she has been for 28 years.

“I have been at Amherst so long because I have never, ever coached a team I didn’t like,” she said. “The kids on my teams are so worth it, I would do anything for them.”

It didn’t take long for Bagwell to leave her mark on the program as she led the team to NCAA Division III Final Four appearances in 1997 and 1998. In 1999, her eighth season, Bagwell led Amherst to the school’s first-ever national championship in any sport.

In a thrilling 5-2 contest, Amherst defeated Williams College to complete a perfect 19-0 season and win the NCAA Division III national title. Since then, Bagwell has led the Mammoths to five NCAA Division III national runners-up finishes in 2004, 2007, 2009, 2011 and 2014.

In 28 seasons, she has amassed a record of 442-118, with 21 appearances in the NCAA Division III national tournament. She has produced a pair of singles and six doubles national champions while also garnering nine New England Small College Athletic Conference titles. In 2000, at the Third Annual Boston Sports Awards Gala, she was named the Boston Area Coach of the Year – beating out Boston Red Sox manager Jimmy Williams and Bruins head coach Pat Burns.

KING OF THE DIAMOND

Mick Owens earned a berth in the Hall of Fame as both a baseball coach and longtime contributor to local sporting groups. Prior to founding Creative Financial Designs and arriving in Kokomo, Owens was a standout baseball player, where he played at Indiana State University and eventually the Kokomo Highlanders semi-professional team. When an injury ended his career, he started his coaching career as an assistant at Haworth High School. He eventually coached his son in Little League before founding the cfd Saints semi-pro squad, which played in Highland Park Stadium.

While at the helm of the Saints for 14 years, he led the squad to more than 400 victories, two berths in the National Baseball Congress World Series and one appearance in the United States Baseball Congress World Series. The Saints also won a pair of Indiana semi-pro state championships and three tri-state titles. His efforts landed the baseball legend into both the Indiana Semi-Professional Baseball Hall of Fame in 2006 and the National Semi-Professional Baseball Hall of Fame in 2013.

As the owner of the Creative Financial Designs company, he has helped countless young boys and girls as a supporter.

BEAST OF THE BUCKETS AND BOARDS

Mark Gabriel enters the Hall of Fame after one of the most dominant prep and college basketball careers of anyone to live in Howard County.  A standout basketball player for the Kokomo Wildkats, in 1966, Gabriel averaged 20 points and 16.5 rebounds per game to earn All-North Central Conference honors while also being named to the all-sectional, all-regional and all-semi-state squads.

Despite his success at Kokomo, Gabriel’s impact was felt most at the collegiate level when he starred for Hanover College, where he still holds 14 school records. The dual-threat star with a soft shot scored 2,368 points and grabbed 1,463 rebounds – both are still school records. As a sophomore, he set the school’s single-season scoring mark with 824 points one year after breaking the freshman scoring record with 565 points. He also holds the season rebound record with 419 and he grabbed an incredible 25 rebounds in a game against St. Leo. His efforts have landed Gabriel into both the Hanover College Athletic Hall of Fame and the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame.

CHAMPIONSHIP RUNNER

Some will say Gary Mumaw put a then relatively unknown Northwestern High School on the athletic map in Indiana. Running cross country at Northwestern from 1968-1972, Mumaw helped lead the Tigers to the 1970 and 1971 IHSAA state runners-up finish in cross county – finishing second to big school Southport (99-133 and 56-129) both years at the South Grove Golf Course in Indianapolis.

Mumaw placed 18th in the IHSAA cross country state finals as a junior before finishing on the podium in eighth-place his senior season. In track and field for Northwestern, Mumaw was a two-time conference champion and won his second IHSAA state finals medal after finishing in third-place in the two-mile run.

After high school, Mumaw ran two seasons at Indiana State University before transferring to the University of Illinois. While an Illini, he was the number two cross country runner for a squad that placed 10th at the NCAA national finals his junior season and fifth during his senior year. In track, Mumaw helped lead Illinois to the 1975 Big Ten Conference team championship and he placed seventh in the 10,000-meter run at the Big Ten Conference championships in 1976.

TOP QUARTERBACK TURNED COACH

Willard Rice may be known as a football coach to many, but he got his start throwing the pigskin for the Kokomo Wildkats (1964-1966) and Ball State Cardinals (1968-1970).

While playing at Kautz Field in downtown Kokomo, Rice threw for 2,400 yards, which is still fifth-best in Wildkat history. He threw for more than 1,000 yards as a junior and recorded Kokomo’s first-ever 300-yard, five-touchdown passing game during his senior season. Rice helped lead the Kats to a perfect 10-0 season in 1964 and was the first Wildkat football player to earn Indiana All-Star honors his senior season.

At Ball State, Rice accounted for 4,403 total yards of offense in three seasons, which is still ninth-best in school history. In his record-setting career, he had 25 touchdown passes and 3,710 passing yards.

After graduation, Rice spent 17 seasons coaching Eastern High School to a record of 88-82 from 1972-1988. He returned to his alma mater and led the Wildkats from 1991-2003, retiring with a 68-62 record and three North Central Conference championships over a 13-season career.

INDIANA ALL-STAR HOOPSTER

Cari Stover-Richards played basketball for the Kokomo Wildkats in one of the most dominant runs the IHSAA has ever seen. A four-year starter for the Lady Kats, she helped lead the squad to a 94-7 record with four 20-win seasons, three North Central Conference titles and back-to-back state championships in 1992 and 1993.

Playing with fellow Indiana All-Stars Tiffany Longworth and Mistina Oliver, Stover finished her career with an impressive 923 points, 515 rebounds, 142 assists and 130 steals. In 91 games, she finished with a 48.9-percent field goal percentage and set a then-school record 43.8 three-point shooting percentage.

She continued her career at the University of Toledo before transferring to Valparaiso University. She was named to the Mid-Continent Conference All-Academic Team after the 1996-97 season.

MASTER OF THE LONG DISTANCE RUN

Many know Ricke Stucker as the longtime coach of the Kokomo Wildkats long distance program. But before he picked up a whistle, he was a standout runner for both the Wildkats (1963-1965) and Indiana University.

But it was while coaching where he left his mark. Following college, Stucker returned to Kokomo and became one of the most respected long-distance coaches in the state. He started his coaching career at Kokomo in 1969 and is currently celebrating his 50th season as the head coach of the boys cross country team. He also coached state finalists in girls cross country and boys and girls track. His teams won 20 cross country sectional titles and have qualified for 39 semi-state competitions. A 10-time Indiana All-Star cross country coach, he has been named the North Central Conference Boys Cross Country Coach of the Year four times and the Girls Coach of the Year twice.

Away from KHS, Stucker has run the Boston Marathon 10 times, has been president of Club Kokomo Roadrunners 11 times and he founded the Haynes-Apperson Festival distance race in 1977. His efforts have garnered him a place in the Kokomo High School Cross Country, Club Kokomo Roadrunners and the Indiana Association of Track and Cross Country Coaches Halls of Fame.

The Howard County Sports HOF contributed to this story

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