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McDowell holds M*A*S*H unit togetherPosted Wednesday, October 27, 2010, at 4:08 PM
North Knox football coach Shawn McDowell could have easily been confused as Colonel Potter on the old TV show M*A*S*H.
McDowell's Warriors were without five starters last week, including quarterback Zach Sutphin and leading rusher Derek Chambers. Also part of the walking wounded is linebacker/left guard Tyler Ellerman.
The Warriors snapped a three-game losing skid as the thrashed Tecumseh 41-6 last week in the opening round of Class A Sectional 40.
North Knox will travel to Linton-Stockton for a second-round match-up with the Miners at 7 p.m. Friday at Roy Williams Field.
"We have definitely had some injury issues this year," said McDowell, who is 38-25 in sixth year at North Knox. "We have been hit pretty hard by the injury bug.
"It has been a little bit of a challenge."
The Warriors were outscored 130-21 in a three-game losing skid that includes losses to Linton-Stockton, North Daviess and Washington. McDowell said it turned out to be a good learning experience. Until the explosion against Tecumseh, NK had scored seven points in their last 11 quarters.
"We really struggled the first week against North Daviess (39-0)," said McDowell. "Against Washington (57-7), the score was not any better, but we sure played a better football game than we did against North Daviess.
"We couldn't afford to mope around and feel sorry for ourselves because nobody was going to feel sorry for us. The kids really stepped up and I think we are a better football team because of it."
Sutphin has a neck injury, which he played through against the Miners, and they are hopeful of a doctor's release this week. He has not played since. The coach added that Chambers, who was limited to 39 yards on 12 rushes against Linton-Stockton earlier, has been getting therapy on his injured ankle and has been able to practice, if not at 100 percent.
McDowell added that Ellerman sat out with a separated shoulder, but is hopeful of his return.
"The kids are ready to step up to the challenge," he said. "We are healthier and playing a heck of a lot better.
"In the end, it was a positive thing for us. We had some kids on the field who probably wouldn't have gained varsity experience this year otherwise. Brennon Duke stepped in and has played three games at quarterback. He has improved and gotten better each week. Freshman Wyatt Held got to play more at linebacker for Ellerman. It has improved our depth."
McDowell said the injures has helped the team grow closer.
"We have improved team camaraderie and chemistry," said McDowell. "We have a senior dominated team, but have a big freshman class (13 of 41 players) on the other end.
"It was almost like the team was segregated with freshmen being quiet, sitting in the front of the bus and the upperclassmen in their own world in the back. We are a much tighter group now. I think we have seen some real positives come out of this stretch of bad luck."
Last year North Knox defeated the Miners 15-7 during the regular season, but Linton-Stockton dominated the Warriors 44-0 during a sectional meeting.
McDowell would like to flip the script or have a reversal of fortune this year, but knows it won't be easy.
"A reversal of fortune would be fine with me, but it's not going to happen just because we want it too," said McDowell. "I think the one thing is that you have a competitive rivalry between two teams.
"That gives you the desire to improve and be better than you were the last time. We played a good first half the last time, but did not make anything happen in the second half. It was a tight game and we did not get thumped. We did not get on the bus and feel like we did after the sectional last year. We felt like we did not lose the whole war, just the battle. But it will be up to us to make things happen on both sides of the ball Friday."
He added they have to find a way to slow down the Miners' inside trap game featuring Kent Helton and Ty Scott.
"We have to try and keep them off the field and get some first downs," said McDowell. "We got to score points, get first downs and try to slow them down to give ourselves an opportunity to win."
B.J. Hargis is the sports editor at the Greene County Daily World. He can be reached at (812) 847-4487, ext 12 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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