Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana


October 8, 2012

CONARD: TC football enjoying special season

Prior to this year, Tri-Central had just six winning seasons.

Winning is the ultimate, but victory without character is empty and meaningless. Effort minus integrity is a total waste of heart, but hope is never out of style as long as the spirit is willing. The size of the dog doesn’t matter.

Tri-Central’s football program has stuttered for most of its 41 harrowing seasons — a perennial doormat with but six winning campaigns and a dungeon-like 85-310 record dating back to 1972. Highlights have been very few: a 6-5 record in 1990; 10-2 in ’91; 5-4 in ’93; 7-3 in ’94; 6-4 in 2004 and 6-4 in 2011 — scant joy in the battered remains of 34-293.

Suddenly, there’s a new flood of adrenaline and a grand resurgence ignited by a defiant Trojan breed that has aroused a heretofore silent football environment. The brisk, refreshing attitude of a pleasantly rebellious TC troupe has declared, “Enough is enough!” Concession patrons, cheerleaders and fence jockeys no longer outnumber bleacherites.

Granted, the opponents have been less than monster-like. But heretofore bully opponents are now shredding their smirks for concern, respect and long, silent bus rides. The Blue and Gold rush has become black and blue mementos.

Proof? Try a 2012 school record start of 8-0, bettering the previous best start of 5-0; a 395-86 scoring advantage, 459.9 total yards per game and a stout defensive effort — perhaps not trophy stock or a summons to greatness but mind boggling to big-eyed witnesses and calculators.

For what it’s worth, the Associated Press’ pollsters have stamped TC an unheard of No. 10 in Class A, and the coaches’ poll has it No. 9, a shocking leap ahead of perennial power Sheridan, setting up something of a historic clash for the Hoosier Heartland Conference title at Lucas Oil Stadium on Saturday (7 p.m.).

Seemingly, coach George Gilbert has been around forever. Not really, just 34 years, the bulk at Clinton Central before landing at Tri-Central. He’s seen the valley and has been to the mountaintop with the same trip ticket — hard work, no nonsense, bare bone honesty, compassion and “one size fits all.”

He explained this to players, parents, fans, etc., at his initial meeting prior to his 2009 Trojan debut: “I’m here as long as players dedicate themselves. When they don’t, I’m out of here. We can and will win, but it’ll take time.”

An 0-10 start had eyes rolling and everybody wondering, Gilbert included. A 3-7 mark in 2010 hyped attention; the 5-0 start and 6-4 finish in 2011 confirmed the promise, and the current 8-0 splash has the giddy masses asking, “How high is up?”

In a lengthy discussion last week, Gilbert — recalling his first TC roster of 16 — remarked: “A change of attitude has been the big thing. We’re getting more kids [32] thanks to the efforts of senior veterans A.J. Tentler, Austin Horn and Martavius Hunt, but our success last year got us going in the right direction.

“We now have kids with a football mentality, and they’ve responded tremendously. Teams used to delight in beating TC, now we’re beating them. It’s been a fun ride for the team, school and community that is only going to get better.

“But we’ve also recruited some outstanding people,” Gilbert added, referring to assistants Shane Arnold, Memo Perez, Jason Tolle, Josh Hunter, Tony Blades, Tim Johnson, P.J. Hatcher, Mike Keller, Jeremy Kennedy, Jerry Reeves, Jason Leininger and Jovon Rayl. “I’m truly blessed to have such a great staff, the best I’ve ever had,” he finished.

Offensive coordinator Arnold offered: “The kids have been amazing. They’re like sponges, they soak up everything, ask questions and dig deeper than any group I’ve ever seen or associated with. Best of all, they care for one another.”

As to the resurgence, Tentler remarked: “We’re so much more focused. Coach Gilbert has simplified things and made them easy to understand. He’s made us believe we can be very good to the point we expect to win every week.”

Hunt stated: “The coaches have us really pumped and have instilled the will to win. We bring it every day and will not be denied. A lot of people don’t respect us, but we’re going to make them respect us.”

Horn added: “Coach Gilbert has been like a second father. Before he came we didn’t know how to play the game. He gave us the tools we needed to win and a plan that worked. He taught us football, but also about life.”

Two-way junior lineman Darius Stanley offered: “We’ve really come together because the coaches have put their hearts and souls out in such a positive way. They’ve brought a new feeling about playing football and the will to win.”

The improvement and leadership of sophomore quarterback Cody Howell and receivers Seth Blunck, Bryce Dowell and Jade Pickett has steadily grown, and with 1,000-yard rushers Horn and Hunt the Trojans have served due notice.

TC has 10 juniors, nine sophomores and 10 freshmen to go with the three seniors. All have been involved which means Gilbert is inching toward the magic number of 40. Rumor has it the list will grow in 2013.

The Trojans have won 14 of their last 18 outings since Gilbert’s rude 0-10 awakening in 2009. He didn’t flinch or make excuses, and neither did his Trojans. They paid the price with a stubborn will and a greater determination but well understand they must prove their mettle every step of the way from now on.

The numbers are for real but are no more glaring than the smiles and convictions of a gang of young warriors who’ ve proven it’s not who gets knocked down but who gets up. And the band plays on.

• Gene F. Conard covers Tri-Central for the Tribune. He may be reached through the sports department.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
  • SPL - KT073014 - Colts camp - pic COLTS: One week of camp in the books The first week of Indianapolis Colts training camp has ended at Anderson University, and the players received their first day off Tuesday. Practice resumes today with the daily morning walkthrough followed by a public session scheduled to begin at 1:50 p.m. More than 10,000 fans attended at least one of the first five practices this summer.

    July 30, 2014 2 Photos

  • BASEBALL: Sixers surge to win The Kokomo Post 6 senior baseball team scored a thrilling victory over Plymouth Post 27 in the opening round of the American Legion state finals on Tuesday night.

    July 30, 2014

  • SPL - KT073014 - Brett Bowman column - column sig BOWMAN: Gardner knew how to live life What is it about dirt track racing that makes me drop nearly everything and everyone around me to witness a race?

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • Sports briefs for Wednesday, July 30 The Indiana Smash softball team won the North American All-Sanctioned 12-U World Series on Sunday. The Smash went undefeated in the tournament. Following pool play, the Smash went 5-0 in bracket play, then beat the Lady Lightning for the title.

    July 30, 2014

  • NCAA Concussion Lawsuit-9 [Duplicate] NCAA settles head-injury suit, will change rules CHICAGO (AP) — The NCAA agreed Tuesday to settle a class-action head-injury lawsuit by creating a $70 million fund to diagnose thousands of current and former college athletes to determine if they suffered brain trauma playing football, hockey, socce

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • Downey, Keagan mug Sixers begin state tourney play today The Kokomo Post 6 baseball squad heads to the American Legion state tournament at Plymouth today brimming with confidence. That’s good and bad.“I believe every time we step on the field our kids believe they are the team to beat,” said Kokomo skipper

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • Sports briefs for Tuesday, July 29 Northwestern sets 1st practice timesNorthwestern has announced its first practice times and dates for high school and middle school sports. All athletes must have a valid 2014-15 physical on file in the athletic office to participate. The times and d

    July 29, 2014

  • SPT - KT072914 Colts-pic QB Luck making progress ANDERSON — Wind chill estimates put the temperature at 59 degrees Monday morning at Anderson University.During one stretch of his fifth training camp practice of the year, however, it likely felt much colder to Andrew Luck.The Indianapolis Colts quar

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • Colts part ways with Rainey after violation ANDERSON — Just two days after earning praise for his playmaking ability from head coach Chuck Pagano, running back Chris Rainey was waived by the Indianapolis Colts on Monday morning.The news was broken in a press release around 8:30 a.m. and later

    July 29, 2014

  • SPL - KT071514 - B1 briefs - mug Athlete of the Week: Tionna Brown ATHLETE OF THE WEEK• NAME: Tionna Brown• SPORT: Track and field• ACCOMPLISHMENTS: The Kokomo seventh grader won three events at the USA Track and Field Junior Olympic national meet in Humble, Texas, in her first appearance at a national meet. Brown w

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

Featured Ads
SportsKT twitter
More kokomotribune.com
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
AP Video
Obama Chides House GOP for Pursuing Lawsuit New Bill Aims to Curb Sexual Assault on Campus Russia Counts Cost of New US, EU Sanctions 3Doodler Bring 3-D Printing to Your Hand Six PA Cops Indicted for Robbing Drug Dealers Britain Testing Driverless Cars on Roadways Raw: Thousands Flocking to German Crop Circle At Least 20 Chikungunya Cases in New Jersey Raw: Obama Eats Ribs in Kansas City In Virginia, the Rise of a New Space Coast Raw: Otters Enjoy Water Slides at Japan Zoo NCAA Settles Head-injury Suit, Will Change Rules Raw: Japanese Soldiers Storm Beach in Exercises Raw: Weapons Fire Hits UN School in Gaza Raw: Rocket Launches Into Space With Cargo Ship Broken Water Main Floods UCLA Two Women Narrowly Avoid Being Hit by Train Crayola Announces Family Attraction in Orlando

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.