Based on recent history, there is every reason to be a little bewildered by the fact that the Sandwich Indians are 5-0 following their huge 32-7 victory over Coal City Friday night. I talked with head coach Derek Avery about some of these things to help give a little insight into this start.
Here are some things you need to know regarding the Indians, who I believe are one of the best 4A teams in the area and - if healthy (more on that later) - can make a run at Champaign.
A long road
While on the surface it may seem to be out of nowhere, but in reality the Indians have been building toward this season over the last two.
This year's seniors were 9-0 as sophomores and this year's juniors went 8-1 as soph's.
There were also three sophomores that played on the varsity in 2008 and went 6-4.
Count last year's 5-4 record and this group of seniors and juniors were a combined 28-9 heading into this year. (Got it?)
They are now 33-9.
Said Avery: "We knew we had a chance to be pretty good this year because of that, but we've also had some underclass teams do very well too and then get to the varsity level and we've gone 5-4 or 4-5. We did know we had some good athletes coming up in these two classes."
Big boys = big holes
The Indians run the double wing (or Wing T) on offense and in order for that to work, the offensive line needs to be not just effective, but dominant.
Here are the starters for the Indians.
C: Troy Reddoch (5-10, 180, Sr.)
G: Matt Chalfin (6-0, 175, Sr.)
G: Logan Lee (6-2, 240, So.)
T: Sam Caldwell (6-3, 270, Sr.)
T: Colton Mueller (6-4, 285, Sr.)
TE: Nolan Gipe (6-1, 185, Sr.)
You can see that Lee is a sophomore and the Indians called up fellow soph Seth Mcdonald (6-0, 180) to play linebacker when senior Sam Hill tore a knee ligament in the preseason.
McDonald has become a big factor on defense and and Lee is a road grader.
said Avery: "They've been a big surprise for us this year. We knew they were good players, but when you bring them up to the varsity level and you put them out there, you don't know really how they'll respond."
"(McDonald) has taken advantage of the opportunity and has played very well for us. And Logan has been outstanding on the offensive line."
Classmates Dakota Padilla, Spencer Keene and Mike Bewley are also on the varsity roster for added depth.
This team is resilient
Sandwich dominated Coal City despite the fact that RB P.J. Crotty, DB Mitch Brummel, DB Trent Weber and McDonald were all sick during the week. Then remember t hat FB/DT Tim Schmitt has been out with an injury since Week 2 and Hill was supposed to start at wing back and linebacker.
Backup - and now starting - RB Connor Voss is also dealing with nagging back pain and now Lee will miss some time.
Yet, this team has proven deep enough to overcome those injuries and keep winning. But, this is the black cloud hanging over the team - programs can only take so many injuries before it finally takes a toll on the scoreboard.
This team can play defense
Coal City has just seven first downs and were held to just one first down in the first, third and fourth quarters on Friday night. As a team, the Indians are allowing just 10.8 points per game and making teams work for every yard - not just points.
Said Avery: "We felt our defense has been pretty solid all year long and has really set us up with good field position. Other than the one drive in the second quarter there (against Coal City) defensively we played very well."
I've seen 7 of our area teams play here in the first 5 weeks and the Indians are no question one of the best squads in the area - so this start is no longer a surprise - the only question is now is how high a seed they can get in the playoffs.