In 2015, the Linton-Stockton Miners and the Eastern Greene Thunderbirds both enjoyed the most successful football seasons either program had ever experienced.
This year, the Thunderbirds have exceeded last season’s historic achievements.
And Eastern Greene’s first-ever football sectional championship last week leads us to another historic first - the first all-Greene County Class A Regional matchup, Friday at Thunderbird Field.
In late July, about a week before the official start of football practice, I wrote, “Excitement is building to a fever pitch on both sides of Greene County as the 2016 gridiron campaign approaches for our two county football programs.
“Expectations are running high in Eastern Greene County after the best season in school history. And in Linton, expectations are always lofty.”
Eastern Greene and Linton-Stockton were both coming off the finest seasons in the respective histories of each program.
2015 was a history-making year in Little Cincinnati.
The Thunderbirds enjoyed the winningest season in the 13-year history of the program, posting an 8-3 record.
And it was a season of firsts. The 8-3 mark was the first winning record in program history. And Eastern Greene won its first-ever Southwest Conference championship.
And though Eastern lost 34-21 to West Washington in the sectional, the T-Birds sent a message they were legitimate sectional contenders.
And they’ve surpassed every one of last year’s record setting marks.
Eastern Greene enters Friday’s contest with a 10-2 record and a second straight conference championship.
Their two losses? The Thunderbirds have lost to the top two ranked teams in Class A - Lafayette Central Catholic, and Friday’s opponent, the Linton Miners.
And the T-Birds finally got that elusive first sectional championship, winning a 34-32 thriller over the Senators of West Washington.
It’s not easy building a football program, especially starting from scratch.
And Eastern Greene struggled mightily, winning 11 and losing 69 the first eight seasons.
The T-Birds flirted with the .500 mark the next four years, from 2011-2014.
Then came last year’s breakthrough season.
And it’s only gotten better.
“This is huge for our school and our community,” EGHS Principal Doug Lewis said.
“This is the kind of thing that makes little boys want to play football.
“And I think it’s going to help us build an even bigger foundation. We’ve had some success the past couple years. This is going to add to that, to get some of our younger kids involved and really start to grow our football tradition which is something new here at Eastern Greene.”
And it may be just the beginning.
Meanwhile, it’s been business as usual over in Linton where the Miners have won six sectionals in a row and 9 of the last 10.
The sixth consecutive sectional crown is also a first in school history.
The current streak began after the Miners last sectional loss in 2010. Linton had won three straight, from 2007-2009.
In 2014 the Miners won a then-unprecedented fourth consecutive sectional.
North Knox came into the 2014 sectional championship 9-2 and thinking they had a legitimate shot at winning.
In early October, the Miners had edged North Knox 40-28 in a torrential downpour.
Question - Why does it always seem to be raining when Linton and North Knox meet on the football field in the regular season?
The Miners thought otherwise - Miners 41, Warriors 0.
And last year, the Red and Blue finally got over the semistate hump, making it to Lucas Oil Stadium for the IHSAA Class A State Finals for the first time in the storied history of the program.
Eight times the Linton-Stockton Miner football team had made it to the semistate round. Eight times they came up short.
On their ninth try they finally broke through. The Miners seized control of the game in the fourth quarter and pulled away for a 56-27 win over the defending Class A state champion North Vermillion Falcons in the 2015 semistate.
And they’ve got an opportunity in front of them to make even more history with a second straight semistate championship and a return trip to Lucas Oil Stadium.
Should that happen, Linton-Stockton would bump up to Class 2A under the IHSAA Tournament Success Factor - meaning Friday’s historic first-ever all-Greene County Regional couldn’t happen again for at least a couple of years.
We’re seeing it this year, in part because Eastern dropped down to Class A in 2015 after years of competing in 2A.
Yes, I know what the score was when last they met, five weeks ago. And I know Eastern’s never beaten Linton in 16 tries.
But the Thunderbirds have been playing their best football of late. And they’re certainly peaking at the right time, knocking off fourth-ranked West Washington in the sectional championship.
I’m not in the prognostication business. So you won’t hear any predictions from me.
Regardless of Friday’s outcome, it’s been another historic season for Greene County football!
Terry Schwinghammer is a sports writer for the Greene County Daily World. He can be reached by telephone at (812) 847-4487, ext. 27. He can also be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.