Strange how things can have a way of changing from one season to the next.
Last season, Fishers HS didn’t win a Hoosier Crossroads Conference football game. Now the Tigers are tied for first place at 2-0 with Avon and Westfield.
The Royals played hard but lost in a bid to earn a share of the conference title a year ago, losing to eventual champion Brownsburg in the regular-season finale, posting a 4-2 HCC record.
Now, the Royals must beat Westfield in Friday’s HSE Homecoming game at Reynolds Royals Stadium to end a 3-game losing streak, move to 2-3, and keep themselves mathematically alive, basically just to have any real hopes in the HCC this season.
In a seven-team conference when you are 0-2, well, you gotta win out.
Yeah, I know — Tough order. Tough task. Tough test.
Just because every Friday the past 3 weeks has been a tough task, that does not mean it’s an impossible task for the Royals.
Still….In case it needs repeating, and first things first, well, the Royals MUST BEAT the Rocks! Three HCC losses is not a winning number. Simply not a winning number in what is a strong, competitive conference year-in and year-out.
Westfield, last season’s Class 5A State Champion, moved up to 6A for 2017 because of the IHSAA Tournament Success Factor. Now the Rocks find themselves at 4-0….And they are the only unbeaten HCC-member school yet to lose!
Under coach Jake Gilbert, Westfield has a top-notch football program, regardless of what class the Rocks represent.
Still, no easy assignment for the Royals. Though possibly a much easier assignment if they don’t allow some long pass plays like they have in the past 3 weeks. And if they can continue to cause turnovers and then move the chains like they did in the fourth quarter against arch-rival Fishers HS.
Johnny May and Madison Norris are two of the better linebackers you’ll see this season. Ditto for Jack Boyd. And junior Anthony Eggers is an up-and-comer in the strong safety spot.
He and DB Isaiah Phillips are also talented return guys.
Westfield will provide an extremely formidable challenge. It also promises to be a stern test for sophomore quarterback Kody Sparks, who gave the Royals the spark they needed in the final quarter at Fishers HS, passing for 122 yards, setting up a score with a 23-yard pass to junior Jackson Lantz and hitting senior Nick Mutchner for a 22-yard score.
At least Kody knows he can move the football. Coach Scott May does, too. So do his teammates. Hey, we all know. We saw him do it. We want more….give us more!
Hopefully, he will….And also cause the Rocks’ sturdy defense some uneasy moments!
And if the Royals can keep quick-first-step Jackson Sweeney, the senior with break-away speed, healthy (he missed the first 3 games because of a nagging hamstring injury), maybe the HSE Blue Crew cheer section will have even much more to SHOUT about, starting with homecoming!
Sweeney, who was a big reason the Royals defeated both Carmel and Westfield in 2016 regular-season games, also later missed 2 games because of the hamstring injury. He finished his 8-game season with 874 yards rushing and 7 touchdowns.
Used sparingly last week, he garnered 26 yards on 4 trips out of the backfield.
“Sweeney back is big for us; he gives us speed, experience and a lot of individual ‘want to’ . . . this kid is a winner — I’m happy to see him back on the field,’’ coach Scott May May said.
Yep, he’s certainly a sight for sore eyes.
On The Internet
*—Audio Sports Online will provide live coverage of the Westfield-Hamilton SE football game. Kickoff is at 7 o’clock.
Something To Think About
A friend of mine asked me what I thought about college football being allowed to play a limited number of football games (in Indiana) on Friday nights.
My reply? “I don’t like it! I didn’t like it when it was first proposed, and I still don’t like it.’’
Why? “Friday Nights ARE and SHOULD continue to be for high school football! Nothing like Friday Night Lights. It’s like a rite of passage….A Friday Night American tradition!…And it’s a sport that can bring thousands of high school fans together in an outdoors venue, where cheers and social conversation are as prevalent as the smell of popcorn!’’
*—Mark Morrow, who has resided in Fishers since 1989, formerly owned Hamilton County Sports Daily. He was inducted into the Indiana Sportswriters-Sportscasters Association Hall of Fame in 2015. He has blogged exclusively for hseroyalsathletics.com since 2016.