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Nov 18, 2008 Football Banquet Season Review speech delivered by Tim Grimm

"For those of you who don’t know me, I’m the guy who runs www.nhsrecords.com.  For those of you who don’t know what that is, let me repeat the URL www.nhsrecords.com .

A program with a history of over 50 years deserves a chronicle of its accomplishments.  That’s what we try to provide at the website—we record the ups and downs of Husky football and basketball history so that an individual season can be put into context.

Tonight I intend to put a little context to the season we just completed.  There were some impressive accomplishments that deserve mention—some highlights (of what could otherwise be a forgotten season) that need to be savored while they are still fresh.

Take for instance our Cub team.  Their run this season was one for the ages—they won their final five games in a row and out scored their opponents 136 to 18 over that five game streak.  There only loss was by less than a touchdown and they very nearly became the first unbeaten Cub squad in quite some time.  Congratulations Cubs!

Our freshman team finished strong by winning their final two games—including a very rewarding victory over the Central Bears.  In fact, that victory assured the Husky program of another bit of history—for the first time in a long time every North team in the program whupped the Central Bears.  If nothing else, that gives cause for celebration.

I had the personal good fortune to watch an important transformation this season.  This being my first season in my role as “team statistician” for JV and Varsity, I got to watch our reserve team grow into a city powerhouse.  Their six-and-one record, including a tie for the City title, was as good a season as there has been in that division for many a year.

In week one, the JV’s got off to a slow start against Central at Central.  With three minutes to play in the first half, they trailed by a score of 15 to nothing.  And then a spark lit things up.  Derrick Hinsey returned a kick off out to the 40 yard line.  Luke Blankenship found Hinsey open for a 10 yard gain and a first down in Central territory.  A few plays later, Hinsey took the handoff on a reverse and tore his way to the 33 yard line.  With 40 seconds on the clock, Blankenship got some good protection and hit Bo Rushing mid-stride with a 33 yard touchdown pass.  Richard Compton’s two point conversion put the Huskies back in the ball game.

But…

With the game winding down, it appeared that second half turnovers and penalties would do the Huskies in.  With the game on the line, Blankenship led the Husky JV’s on a 57 yard drive that would show the kind of determination that this JV team would have throughout the season.  As it turned out the JV’s had to score not once, not twice, not three times, but FOUR times on this single possession to win the game. 

        On third and three from the 9, Blankenship tossed an apparent TD pass only to have it called back for a holding penalty.  On third and 16, the JV’s picked up 12 on a pass to Alex Rockman and then Compton ran for a first down on 4th and 4.  That set up first and goal from the four.

        On 3rd and goal from the two, another TD pass was called back due to a penalty.  Faced with 3rd and goal from the 15, Blankenship displayed a ‘win-at-all-costs’ run around right end that finished with a head first dive down to the five yard line. 

        On fourth and goal from the 5, Compton swept around left end for the TD that pulled the Huskies within one point.  Having put the ball in the end zone for the third time in eight plays, North finally got credit for six points.

        Going for the “win” all the way, Coach Carey put the ball in the hands of Hinsey on the 2 point conversion and the Huskies put the ball in the end zone for the fourth time on a single drive and beat their biggest rivals.

That was the kind of team that this JV ball club was—a never-say-die ball club that found a way to win.

When Bosse jumped out to an early 6-0 lead in week 2, Coach Carey pulled out the ol’ double pass play to ignite the offense.  A Blankenship – to Strohmeier – to Hinsey pass re-energized the offense and Brandon Scott found paydirt on an electrifying 21 yard run up the middle to change the game’s momentum.  Blankenship hit Luke Kaffenberger with a 19 yard TD pass in the second quarter and the JV’s had a lead they would not relinquish winning 19-6.

Following a big 20-13 win on the road at Mater Dei (the early start prevented me from being there to record the event—sometimes I do have to actually work for a living), Evansville got hit by Hurricane Ike.  When Castle couldn’t make the game that Monday due to no electricity at Castle High School, the Knights opted out of a Tuesday night reschedule.  They also opted out of two other proposed make up dates as well.  Where I come from, we call that a “FORFEIT” not a cancellation.

As if to make up for lost time, the JV’s took out their frustration on Memorial.  On the opening drive of the game, Blankenship hit Caleb Kinnaird on the prettiest pass play of the season—out of the shotgun formation,  he tossed a gorgeous 56 yard pass down the right hand side.  Kinnaird, running a fly pattern, had two steps on the defender and never broke stride as he ran the final 10 yards to the end zone. 

Derek Hinsey (facing his former team mates—he transferred from Memorial to North during the summer) played like a man possessed.  He recorded three tackles for loss on blitzes into the Tiger backfield, picked off a pass and returned it 69 yards to the Memorial 7, and ran a reverse for a 25 yard touchdown—all in the first half of the football game.

Against Harrison, the JV’s extended their record to 6-0 when QB Matt Strohmeier led the team on five scoring drives.  It was Brandon Scott, however, who got things started when he ran 69 yards for a TD on the game’s first play.   That wasn’t the only highlight, however, because Blake Johnston picked off a pass just 10 seconds later on Harrison’s first play and ran it back 31 yards for a touchdown.  Strohmeier then managed the club on scoring drives of 63 yards, 66 yards, and 54 yards to put the game out of reach.

Success, however, at the JV level is rewarded in a different fashion than other levels.  Success in JV is rewarded with more playing time on Friday nights.  As a result, the JV club that went into the season finale with Reitz wasn’t quite the same club that destroyed Memorial and Harrison.

Having failed to capitalize on two Reitz turnovers and having just given up a long touchdown run, it might’ve been easy to write off the JV’s in the finale as overmatched.  Nothing seemed to be working on offense as the club had failed to gain a first down on its first four possessions.

And then, on third and 6 from the Husky 23, Blankenship dropped back to pass and looked for a favorite target.   Caleb Kinnarid was breaking free on a fly pattern down the right hand side.  Blankenship’s pass got just a bit too much air underneath it and appeared to linger for a moment at the apex of the throw.  Kinnaird, showing the maturity of a full season of play, gauged the flight of the ball perfectly, staggered his steps just right, leapt, and grasped the ball from the grip of the defender.  He landed well, kept his balance, and jetted the remaining 30 yards for a touchdown.

The JV’s were looking to make a game of it after all.

Featuring a defense that wouldn’t yield—Tony Mendoza recorded four tackles for loss and a QB sack in his biggest game of the season—it fell to the Johnston brothers to ignite the Huskies for one more chance at victory.  With the Huskies trailing 14-6, Reitz had the ball at midfield and were moving.  On 1st and 10, Blake Johnston made first contact with a Panther runner as he rounded right end.  Spearing the runner with his shoulder, he broke the ball loose with a tug of his free hand.  The ball careened directly from the runner’s grasp and into the hands of Chase Johnston who returned the ball the North 44.  Moments later, Alex Rockman carried a reverse 24 yards for a touchdown.  Unfortunately, the 2 point conversion pass was tipped away and a perfect season wasn’t in the cards for the JV’s.

But they did have the finest season of any JV club in the last decade and for those of you that were there to witness it, you got a great reward for your investment.  A round of applause is in order as we remember those unsung heroes of Monday nightJob Well Done, gentlemen of the Junior Varsity!

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I don’t need to chronicle the Varsity games—most of you were there and saw them.  What we do need to recognize are those individual achievements that these type of banquets commemorate.

For instance—in 51 years of play, North has played 522 games.  Only five times in those 522 games has a kicker ever managed 9 points in a game.  This season Preston Meador did it not once but twice—against Harrison and Central.  His 38 kicking points this season rate 7th all time and he ranks fourth all-time in career kicking points.  He is tied for the career lead in Field Goals and holds the single season ALL TIME record for Field Goals in a season with 5.  As grand as those numbers are, we can all appreciate most the way his kickoffs boomed their way inside the opponent’s 5 yard line routinely.

In a season that saw the Huskies nearly rebuild their defense in its entirety, two accomplishments stand out.  Senior Ben Green’s four interceptions this season placed him inside the Top 10 all-time in that category (he very nearly had three in the game against Bosse alone—he had to settle for two) and Junior Cameron Clements began his climb up the All-Time solo tackles rankings.  His 49 on the season made the Top 30 all-time and a similar performance next season could place him inside the Top 10 all-time for a career.

Team Captain Travis Carlile picked up sacks down the stretch—his speed off the ball is uncommon for a defensive end and he put it to good use.  His eight sacks of the quarterback end up in the top 10 all-time for North High School.  Likewise Carlile’s 962 yards career rushing place on the all-time list—he ranks 26th in the category.

When we talk about all-time records, no category was impacted as much as the Receiving categories were this season.  Wide Receiver James Gott, with his electrifying speed had what was arguably one of the top two or three games ever enjoyed by a Husky receiver against Reitz when he caught 8 passes (good for 2nd all-time) for 156 yards (3rd all time).  Gott’s 2008 season ranks amongst the best ever as well.  His 38 catches rank 4th, his 528 yards is 8th, and his 5 TD’s rank 12th.   

What everyone will remember about James, though, are the big plays.  Ten times on the season, T-E-N, he broke off on gains for 35 yards or longer.  Who will forget the play at Henderson County when their All-State running back (and District 100 meter dash champion) broke loose around left end and appeared headed for a sure fire 70 yard touchdown run?

A green and white blur appeared crossing from the opposite side of the field.

I can tell you this, with pads and helmets, when a sprint is held between a sprinter and a hurdler, Always, Always bet on the hurdlerJames tracked him down from across the field and nailed the Colonel before he could get inside the 20 yard line.

How about 3rd and 16 from midfield against Harrison?  The Warriors were a ball club steeped in speedsters.  Their 91 yard touchdown run in the first quarter had been evidence of it and they possess the reigning city 100 meter dash champion in their defensive backfield.  When James found a crease in the Warrior secondary and caught a slant pattern for ten yards, it wasn’t just any ordinary slant pattern. 

No… this one was going the distance.  Kicking in the afterburners, Gott clicked off yard markers like a picket fence.  He was still putting distance between him and the Warriors when he crossed the goal line.

Like I said, “Always, Always bet on the hurdler…”

Three other seniors put themselves in the record book this season.  The one that might be the easiest to overlook might also have been the most clutch performer on the team.

Senior Defensive Back and Wide Receiver Drew Hawkins made more ‘clutch’ catches than any player in recent memory.  I don’t think I could begin to count the number of scoring drives that might’ve stalled if he had not found a way to get open on those tough 3rd and 8 situations.  He caught more tipped balls on the season (four) than you can account for by just saying he was “lucky”—Drew Hawkins was the type of ball player who made his own luck. 

Twice he had six catches in a game—both of which rank in the top 10—and his 28 catches on the season rank 12th all-time.  He became only the 16th different Husky to gain as many as 328 yards receiving in a season.  On defense, he was again an example of a player who “made his own luck”.  How else could you explain six, count ‘em, SIX career blocked kicks?  How about FOUR career fumble recoveries?  Those sorts of things don’t just happen to you—you make them happen around you.

The final receiver to gain attention on the record books is the guy who was came within a single reception of the all-time mark for a season.  Mitch Parker completed a career that is full of All-Time accomplishments. 

His junior season saw him grab 6 balls for 134 yards against Reitz in which he helped the Huskies give the eventual state champions their toughest game of the season.

Parker’s senior season saw him become the offense’s primary weapon down the stretch and included a memorable game against Central in which he caught 8 passes (including a 28 yard TD).  He became only the fifth Husky to gain a thousand yards receiving in his career.  He finished 3rd all-time in career receptions with 74 and tied for 7th in career TD receptions.  Eight times in his career Mitch had games in which he caught passes for 70 or more yards.

Perhaps what we’ll miss most, however, might just be those long high-arcing punts that continuously backed up opponents inside their 30 yard line.

OF course, all this mention of receivers could only leave one player whose exploits have yet to be discussed… the guy who threw them the ball.

Coming into the season, QB Cameron Whitler had been limited to four varsity passes.  A combination of a three year starter ahead of him and a junior season injury had limited his “snaps” at the varsity level.  To be frank, entering the ’08 season, Whitler was possibly the Huskies biggest question mark.

If you attended summer workouts and August practices, you immediately noticed something.  A season or two of basketball success and attendance at football clinics had had a marked impact on Cameron’s footwork.  His balance as he pivoted to make handoffs, his speed with which he got away from the line of scrimmage, and his fluidness in the pocket all were unmistakably improved.  He looked like a player who had grown up three years in the span of a few months.

Nowhere was this more evident than the first half of the first game of the season.

In one half of play, Whitler gave a glimpse of what the season would hold.  When Bosse wanted to get into a “track meet”, Cameron showed we were up to the challenge.  He completed 11 of 16 passes for over 200 yards in the first half alone.  From the opening possession’s 52 yard pass to Hawkins, to the 46 yard TD pass to Gott, to a second quarter 14 yard scoring pass to Parker, Whitler showed an ability to utilize all the weapons at his disposal.

This would be the model for the remainder of the season.

His 34 passing attempts against Henderson County were the third most ever in a game.  His 23 completions against Castle set the record for a single game.  Five times he threw for over 200 yards—a feat never before accomplished at North—and his 263 against Bosse were third most ever in a game.

Not surprisingly, Cameron ranks 2nd all-time for passing yards in a season (1,744), 4th in TD passes with 12, and, perhaps most importantly, he set the All-Time record for percentage completion at nearly 60% while setting the record for most passing attempts.

In short, Cameron Whitler proved to be the most reliable passing quarterback in school history.  This young man who had begun the season as possibly the team’s biggest question mark ended the season as the team’s most reliable weapon.

And finally, Coach Wilson continued his climb up the ranks of All-Time Evansville Coaches.  With his next victory he will tie former Bosse head coach (and former North assistant from 1957-1960) Archie Owen for 8th on the list of Evansville High School Football victories. 

The best part of that news is that Archie will make the second member of the Owen family that Coach Wilson has passed in the last couple seasons—he passed Mike last year.  In addition, he’s two-and-oh against the youngest member of the Owen family following this season’s overwhelming 27-0 shutout victory in the Buehler’s Buy Low North Side Trophy game.  That victory marked the first time North had put together back to back wins over the Bears since 2003.

Like I said early on, 2008 marked the first season in many that we beat our largest rivals at every level of the organization.  The ’08 season had some ups and downs, but it was still a season of remarkable accomplishments and has laid the foundation upon which the program can build for future success.

My congratulations to all of you on a season well played.

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Now it is my distinct pleasure to introduce the winningest coach in North football history, mastermind of six sectional championships, and the Dean of the Evansville football coaching community.  Entering his 21st season at North, ladies and gentlemen, my coach... your coach... our Coach--Mike Wilson."

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