North Central, Eastern Greene have come a long way
Although the North Central High School football program has been around three times as long as Eastern Greene, the two have a lot in common.
It wasn’t that long ago when both of them were thought of as the dregs of high school football in the Wabash Valley. Never in my lifetime did I think the two would meet in the title game.
In the first 15 years of football at Eastern Greene, they had zero winning seasons and just two 5-5 campaigns. They had won just one playoff game during that tenure.
During the leadership of coach Joey Paridaen, the Thunderbirds of Greene County have won back-to-back sectional championships, including a 33-14 victory over North Central in the title game of Class A Sectional 48 on Friday night.
Paridaen’s teams have went 5-5, 8-3, 10-3 and 9-3 during his first four seasons. The three losses this year were by forfeit because of having used an ineligible player.
Eastern Greene, who beat Linton for the first time in school history this season, will host Fountain Central this Friday in a regional championship game.
North Central had hopes of playing in its first regional game in football this year, but those dreams were dashed by Eastern Greene.
That doesn’t mean that the Thunderbirds of Sullivan County don’t have a lot to be proud of and celebrate.
They set a school record with 10 wins, against just two losses. Both of those setbacks came at the hands of Eastern Greene.
This was the third consecutive year that North Central had advanced to the sectional championship game. They had lost to Linton in 2015 and 2016 in the title game.
Coach Travis Nolting has completed seven seasons in charge of North Central football. His teams have posted six winning seasons during his tenure.
The T-birds went 8-2 in 2011, 8-3 in 2012 and 2013, 4-6 in 2014, 7-5 in 2015 and 6-5 in 2016, giving him an overall record of 51-26. He is the only coach in the history of NCHS to have a winning record.
“I don’t think enough is said about how far this program has come in the past seven years,” said Nolting. “We used to be everybody’s homecoming game and senior night.
“It has taken a lot of work by my great coaching staff, the players and the support of the parents, fans, administration and community to make it happen. Although it is disappointing and hurts right now, I know that I am proud of what we have accomplished and plan to accomplish here at North Central.”
The Thunderbirds saw only had glimpses of success through the years. Coach Dick Jones had four straight winning seasons in the first four varsity seasons of the program in 1968-71, although playing against much bigger schools. Coach Brian Crabtree, who went on to North Vermillion where he won a state championship, had back-to-back 8-3 seasons in 2006-07.
The T-birds only lose Chase Wiseley and Colton Stevenson as starters and just five seniors in total (Patrick McCombs, John Shields and Garrett Ellis).
“This senior class has been a big part of our success the last four years,” said Nolting. “Wiseley and Stevenson are the only starters we are losing to graduation, but Patrick, John and Garrett also have contributed much to the program.
“Eastern Greene loses several seniors, including Caleb Hamilton (who accounted for all five touchdowns against North Central on Friday). He has been a program changer. He is going to be a hard player for them to replace.”
But Eastern Greene’s loss could be North Central’s gain. Although I am not an oddsmaker in Vegas, I would say North Central would be the favorite in Class A Sectional 48 next year, although a lot of things can happen in a year.
Wood Memorial, North Daviess and Tecumseh have been way down recently. West Washington and Springs Valley had moments this year and Rock Creek Academy will join Sectional 48 next year.
North Central will return its starting backfield — Dawson Basinger and Blake Chatman both rushed for over 1,000 yards, and sophomore Cody Curtis along with quarterback Ty Thompson will be running again next year behind a veteran offensive line.
“I’ve got a young group, losing just two starters,” said Nolting. “We’ve got a bright future.
“We have to learn from this year’s experience. The kids have to be willing to do their best at every practice and every rep in the weight room. We are going to keep fighting until we reach the mountaintop. That’s our goal. We want to plant the flag. We want to be champions and we are going to pursue that relentlessly.”
Good luck to Nolting and his Thunderbirds. Maybe 2018 will be the first year that a team from Sullivan County wins