Don’t sell City short
The Michigan City football team took a vote this week and decided unanimously to show up for today’s Class 5A North Semistate at New Palestine.
OK, obviously that didn’t really happen, but given some of the vibes Wolves coach Phil Mason is picking up from outside Northwest Indiana, his team is being cast into the underdog’s role against the top-ranked Dragons, and they’re salivating at the opportunity to discount the skeptics.
“Some of the tidbits I pick up, we feel like we’re not even supposed to go. I’m like, what do you mean?” Mason said Friday. “Don’t get me wrong. Do we have great respect for what they’ve done, for coach (Kyle) Ralph and his staff? Yes, absolutely. Are they as good as what we read about? I don’t know. They’re a great football team, but so are we. It’s going to be a great ball game. I’m going to stick up for my squad. I’m the leader. We’re not going to be intimidated. We’re going down there with the intention of winning the football game and don’t be surprised if we do.”
Big school football in this corner of the state has gained a bad wrap, and in large part, it’s been deserved. Penn has been an annual road block to local teams in 6A, Valpo breaking through and knocking off the Kingsmen last week to advance to the semistate. It was the first time an area 6A school has been to the semistate since 2012. The drought for making it to state dates back to 2001 and the Region’s only titles in the state’s biggest class came in the 1970s three-class era.
“It’s population-based, numbers-based,” Mason said of the 6A dominance of schools like Warren Central, Carmel and Ben Davis. “Look at how many kids they have. Going from Andrean to Michigan City really enlightened me on playing in the big boy conference. There are different types of players, deeper rosters. There’s a lot of negativity with the (Duneland) conference. I’m saying, why do we have two teams in the semistate in the two biggest classes if we’re so bad. There’s been a changing of the guard. Michigan City’s not a 1-9, 2-8 team anymore.”
The Wolves wrapped up preparations Friday at Ames Field, and following a team breakfast buffet this morning courtesy of Galveston restaurant, they’ll head south, stopping in Indianapolis for a final walkthrough before going to New Palestine. It’s not the identical routine as a year ago when City traveled to Kokomo on a Friday, but Mason believes having been through the whole process will serve the team well.
“It was our first time last year. Kokomo was there for the third time in a row. It was just their time to go to the Dome,” he said. “Obviously, the experience of a long trip was irreplaceable. It was so valuable, I can’t even express it. Our kids have an understanding of what playing deep (in the tournament) means now, getting your mind and body used to it. New Palestine was knocked out a little early last year, but they’ve experienced it, too, and they have the advantage of being at home. We have every intention of playing next week and I’m sure coach Ralph would say the same thing.”
Class 5A North Semistate
Michigan City (10-2) at New Palestine (12-0), 3 p.m.