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Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Miners had record-setting year but come up short of state finals

Posted Friday, November 25, 2011, at 12:06 PM

As I write this column on Friday morning, it is about three hours to kickoff of the Class A state championship football game at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

The contest will feature No. 1 Lafayette Central Catholic (14-0) vs. No. 10 Indianapolis Scecina (11-3).

A lot of Miner Nation thought that No. 3 Linton-Stockton would be making its first appearance in said title game, but Scecina put an end to that dream as the Crusaders blanked the state's top scoring team 17-0 on Nov. 18 in Indy.

For the second time in school history, the Miners finished 13-1.

The 2008 Miner squad also had an undefeated regular season, winning the Southwest Seven Conference and marched through the sectional and regional before coming up short at the semistate. They lost to Indianapolis Ritter 30-26 at Roy Williams Field in November three years ago in even more heartbreaking fashion.

The Miners appeared poised to finally get over the semistate hump as they led Ritter 20-8 going to the fourth quarter. But the Raiders scored 22 points in the final 12 minutes, including 15 unanswered in the final five minutes and the game winner with 65 seconds left to come away with a 30-26 victory.

This was an exciting season for the Miner faithful as the high-powered aerial attack rolled up an improbable 716 points, another school record. That equated to a state-best 51.1 points per game and a 41.5 winning margin.

Junior quarterback Austin Karazsia owns virtually all of the game, season and career passing records at Linton-Stockton.

He completed 244 of 361 (.676) for 3,436 yards with 43 TDs and 13 interceptions.

His yardage total this year was the 15th best single-season performance by a high school quarterback in Indiana.

But he had a lot of help from his friends as Cole Bradbury (50), Dess Fougerousse (46), Brad Thomas (39), Koye Kaiser (35), Grant Stamm (25), Kent Helton (19) and Abram Neff (10) had double figures in receptions and 15 different players had at least one catch.

Kaiser and Helton combined for over 1,500 rushing yards and 27 TDs on the ground as the Miners amassed 5,887 yards, compared to 1,989 to opponents.

The offense scored 50 or more points nine times, with a season-high 81 against North Daviess, unofficially the third most by a Miner team and the most in the last 86 years.

The defense, which had four shutouts and limited four other opponents to one touchdown, was equally as impressive as they came up with 21 interceptions and 22 fumble recoveries.

Ethan Lannan, the defensive player of the year in the Southwest Seven Conference, was one of many standouts on a defense that was among the state leaders, allowing less than 10 points per game.

Lannan had 87 tackles, 24 for loss.

But I am sure there isn't a player, coach or fan of the Blue and Red that wouldn't trade all of those statistics for just one more victory and a chance to play on the biggest stage in Indiana.

As impressive as it is that the Miners have won six regionals in Class A, it is just as disappointing that they are 0-6 at the semistate.

Half of the losses -- 1986 (South Putnam), 1998 (Sheridan) and 2008 (Indianapolis Ritter) -- came to the eventual state champion. South Putnam edged the Miners 14-6 and Sheridan blasted the Miners 43-14 at the semistate 13 seasons ago.

After edging Linton-Stockton 14-13 in the semistate final in 1997 in Henry County, Knightstown fell 49-21 to Pioneer in the title game.

In 2004, Ritter lost the Class A title to Seeger 20-7 after the Raiders got by the Miners 21-20 in overtime in the semistate at Roy Williams Field.

Other than the losses to Sheridan and Scecina, the Miners were right there four times with a chance to go to state. For whatever reason, they came up just short. Four times they were at home when competing to go to state.

Some might compare the plight of the Miners to Minnesota Vikings teams of Bud Grant and Marv Levy's Buffalo Bills. The Vikings lost in the Super Bowl three times in six years while the Bills fell four straight times.

The difference would be they got to play on pro football's biggest stage and the Miners are still trying to get to the pinnacle of high school football.

Have the Miners been beaten at the semistate by better teams,? yes. Have they been unlucky,? yes. Or could there be other reasons, possibly.

Some could say the parochial schools like Ritter and Scecina have a built in advantage with the ability to recruit, but half of those losses came to non-parochial schools.

Conference championships and undefeated regular seasons are nice, but do they really prepare the Miners to make a run at a state title?

As unpopular an answer as it may be, I think not. No offense to the members of the SW 7, but the Miners have dominated teams in that conference.

They have not lost to North Central since 1991. They have a 32-15 all-time mark against North Daviess.

Linton-Stockton also has won 16 of the past 18 meetings with North Knox.

The Thunderbirds, Cougars, who won the SW 7 in 2009 and 2010 and Warriors, have had very good seasons of late, but year in and year out the record shows that the Miners have pretty much owned that trio, despite the efforts of coach Shawn McDowell at North Knox and Scotty Helms at North Daviess.

It is great that kids earn patches for their letter jackets recognizing their accomplishments as all-conference performers, but the other teams in the conference have offered little resistance to Linton-Stockton, with a few exceptions.

From my point of view, the Miners did not have to break a sweat in the regular season and barely did so in winning a sectional and regional. They played great, but were not challenged, which can give one a false sense of security.

The Miners were not hit in the mouth until Scecina did it at the semistate, dominating the first half. The most interesting stat of that first half was that Scecina had more passing yards at intermission than the visitors.

Linton-Stockton found its legs in the second half. They had an impressive 87-yard drive, but were stopped at the Scecina 5.

But in the end, four turnovers and over 275 rushing yards by the Crusaders did in the Miners. In my humble opinion, a weak schedule also was a culprit. The Miners do play Class 2A Sullivan and Class 3A West Vigo, along with Class A Springs Valley, as their three non-conference opponents.

The Miners were ranked as having the 296th strongest schedule in Indiana, the worst among the top 12 ranked teams by Sagarin's computer. Scecina had the 160th and second best behind LCC.

As long as the Miners are in the Southwest Seven, do they honestly give themselves a chance to compete with the state's best? I think you know my opinion, which that and less than two bucks can get you a soft drink about anywhere.

Coach Steve Weber and his staff have compiled a brilliant 115-28 record in his 12 seasons in charge of the Miners and Linton-Stockton fans should be thankful for all of their success during his tenure (five sectionals and three regionals).

But no matter what has happened in the past, fans can hang their hats on the fact that the Miners should return everyone but eight seniors that will graduate. Although Helton, Thomas, Blake Scharbrough and Ryan Littlejohn, among others, were a big part of this season, the outlook for 2012 would have to be very bright indeed.

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 hargisbj@gmail.com.

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B.J. Hargis
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