Terry Peebles’ first order of business as Harrison football coach was to disassociate himself from Harrison football.
At least the Harrison football fans have recently become accustomed to seeing.
“I’ve never seen the kids play,” Peebles admitted on Wednesday. “I haven’t watched film from last year. Last year is last year. Whatever conference they were in, I am not going to watch those games.”
He hasn’t looked at the stats from last year. Nor does he care to.
The stat most commonly linked with Harrison’s football program is one the Raiders hope to change sooner rather than later.
That stat is referred to as “the streak,” a phrase used often in sports but usually positively. This streak is one the Harrison football program doesn’t want: a 36-game losing streak, meaning no one on the roster has been a part of a varsity football victory.
“People here haven’t really known how to win,” senior Cameron Greene said. “Now we have a new coach and we don’t dwell on the past. It’s a new feeling, a new mentality of the players.”
The Raiders were last victorious on Sept. 10, 2010, defeating McCutcheon 55-14. Harrison’s senior class was in eighth grade.
Winning has been difficult in recent years not only for Harrison, but also McCutcheon and Lafayette Jeff in the juggernaut Hoosier Crossroads Conference. A lot has changed since the Raiders’ last game, a 42-14 sectional loss to Westfield — which happens to be Harrison’s season-opening opponent on Friday.
Harrison now competes in the North Central Conference and opens the season with two nonconference games. Tony Martin was relieved of his duties as head coach. Peebles, who has a college coaching pedigree, was given a group of kids that is eager to win but hasn’t experienced it.
Last year, Harrison was at times competitive but faltered.
“We have good players on this team. We are ready for the season to get started and show people what we are capable of,” senior defensive lineman Brett Spitznagle said.
Early practices have been chippy.
Peebles separates offense and defense during practice. When the two sides get a chance to clash, there have been intense battles in the trenches.
That’s the biggest difference Peebles has seen from his first encounters with his new team and the squad now preparing for its season opener. The summer provided a scrimmage with little enthusiasm that didn’t match the new coach’s desired results.
“We’ve tried to hone in on that and make sure that their attitudes, their character, the things that don’t take any talent, that we are really good at those, so that when the talent comes together with the preparation, we are ready to win some football games,” Peebles said.
Head coach: Terry Peebles (first season)
2013 results: 0-10 (0-9 Hoosier Crossroads Conference), lost to Westfield 42-14 in sectional
Class: 5A, Sectional 11 (Kokomo, McCutcheon, Westfield)
Sectional championships: 6 (1981, ’87, ’89, ’90, ’92, ’94)
Regional championships: 4 (1987, ’89, ’90, ’92)
Semistate championships: 1 (1992)
State championships: 1992 (4A)
Home field: A.J. Rickard Field
Returning starters: N/A
Offense: Pro style
Rushing: Daniel Wright (5-7, 190, sr., RB) 110-446 yards, 1 TD
Receiving: Cameron Greene (6-2, 200, sr., RB/WR) 15-138 yards
Tackles: Brett Spitznagle (6-0, 230, sr., DT) 78
Others to watch: Seth Meyer (6-2, 225, sr., LB) 49 tackles, 4 sacks; Luke Harris (6-4, 270, sr., OT); Jeep Morehouse (5-11, 190, WR/TE) 2 TD; Michael Kern (6-2, 225, sr., OL/DL); Evan Sturgeon (6-1, 255, sr., C); Tanner Watkins (5-7, 155, sr., DB); Marcus Torres (5-9, 170, jr., DB); Colin Zeh (6-1, 210, jr., DE); Dakota Manion (5-9, 175, jr., LB); Garrett Breneman (6-0, 255, jr., OG); Clay Weaver (5-8, 165, jr., FS)
Outlook: It’s been a while since the Raiders have been this excited to start a season, one they view as a new beginning. Harrison is in a new league, has a new coach and a new attitude.
Stuck in the misery of 36 consecutive losses, Harrison should soon find itself on the winning side of the scoreboard. That’s step one. But the Raiders have veterans, are strong up front offensively and defensively, and many players saw almost immediate playing time against much better competition in the Hoosier Crossroads Conference. Harrison hopes that after two years of being beaten up, it is the Raiders’ turn to dish out some of the punishment.
Harrison enters preparation for its season opener still unsure of its quarterback situation. JDan Sturgeon and Jackson Vanderwielen split snaps during Friday’s scrimmage against West Lafayette. The Raiders are still awaiting word on the eligibility of Jami Frier, a transfer from McCutcheon.