History continues to be written in Fountain City.
A Northeastern High School athletic team had its first trip to state last fall when the boys tennis program became the first to win a semistate title.
Grant Esposito, Shane Stiner, Craig Dingwerth and Corey Dingwerth were on that team.
The football team finally has its banner hanging in Larry Moore Gymnasium.
Joey Claypoole quarterbacked the Knights to their first Tri-Eastern Conference title in that sport.
Those five athletes have spent their winter adding more firsts.
The Northeastern boys basketball team won its first TEC title in 30 years, the Wayne County tournament for the first time in a decade and its first sectional crown ever. At 22-2, they have the most wins in program history.
If there was any doubt about the adage “success breeds success,” it might have been put to bed by Northeastern High School’s success in boys athletics this year.
“It helped us get the feeling of winning in us, but it’s two completely different sports,” Craig Dingwerth said. “It just felt good to win, and we wanted to come out here and do something that’s never been done and make school history.”
In tennis, Craig Dingwerth was an all-state second-team doubles selection and Esposito earned the honor in singles.
“I think it helped our guys that were on the tennis team a lot, because it gives us extra confidence going to another sport thinking we could just do the same thing,” Esposito said. ” … Everyone says, ‘Well, they’re not experienced at this level.’ Well, four of us are, and I think that helps a lot.”
Senior Corey Dingwerth had plans to spend last fall in the weight room getting ready for basketball, but the experience he got with tennis might have been more valuable.
“A few weeks into the tennis season, my dad was like, ‘Here’s a tennis racket, Mike (Esposito, tennis coach) gave it to me for you. Just go out to see if you like it for one day,'” Corey Dingwerth said. “I went out and it was so much fun. I couldn’t help but go back. It was a fun group of guys.”
Corey Dingwerth earned a spot on the No. 2 doubles varsity team, helping the Knights earn a top-10 ranking in the IHSTeCA poll for the first time in program history.
The Knights also won four straight tennis sectional titles, two regionals, a semistate and three TEC crowns during the past four years. They became the smallest public school to ever advance to the State Finals in tennis.
“It definitely helps in the confidence aspect, because coming from Northeastern, we don’t really have a lot of championships from anywhere,” Corey Dingwerth said. “So, I think going out in the tennis season and getting like a mindset of what it’s like to win and how it feels got us all tennis players and football players excited for this season, because we knew we could do it coming out.”
Claypoole earned all-state first-team honors in Class A after helping the Knights get rid of ghosts in football.
A last-second fumble recovery in the end zone tied a must-win game against Union City and Claypoole ran in a decisive two-point conversion to give the Knights a share of their first TEC title. The Knights also advanced to a third sectional final in six years, putting a scare into eventual Class A state runner-up Eastern Hancock.
“It’s definitely helpful,” Claypoole said of the success with football. “It gives you the ability to tell what you’re going to do and it helps you out. It just gives you the drive and you know what you’re going to do.”
The Knights head to Connersville for a noon match-up against Speedway (16-6), reigning champion of the regional.
The Sparkplugs are ranked No. 12 in Class 2A. The Knights are No. 10.
Top-ranked Park Tudor (20-4) plays Indianapolis Crispus Attucks (13-9) in the 10 a.m. semifinal. The regional championship is 8 p.m. Saturday.
The regional champion advances to the March 22 semistate at either Richmond or Seymour.
“Incredible. We’ve made history in every sport I’ve played in, especially in basketball,” Corey Dingwerth said.
” … We’ve been lucky with four, five good years of athletes coming through in each grade. We’ve just had special players that are good at whatever they do. Just pure athletes.”