By GREG MENGELT
Silver Creek is coming off its most successful football season since re-establishing its program in 2010.
In 2012, the Dragons ended their 14-game losing streak with a 44-18 win over Eastern, then beat North Harrison and Crawford County late in the season for a 3-7 record in just its second full varsity season.
Silver Creek still isn’t a contender in the Mid-Southern Conference and certainly not in its new Class 4A sectional, which includes state powerhouse Evansville Reitz.
However, with every season and every summer that passes, the Dragons become less of the new kid on the block and more of a football program just like everyone else.
“It’s been very upbeat, very positive,” Silver Creek defensive coordinator Tony Garrett said of this summer’s workouts. “The kids have been really looking forward to the season. One day the switch will flip and we’ll be on the same level as everyone else. We’re working hard to get there.
“We’ve taken some lumps and we’re hoping to apply some of those lessons we’ve learned to the field. We’re hoping to have one of our strongest varsity teams we’ve had so far. We’re still young, but for the first time, we have a good group of upperclassmen.”
For the first time in 2013, Silver Creek appears to have enough experienced players to have a full varsity team and a full junior varsity. The summer workouts in Sellersburg have included an average of 35 to 40 players. With school beginning Aug. 1 and the first official practice on Aug. 5, Garrett said he expects as many as 55 players on the roster by the Aug. 23 opener at Springs Valley.
“So far, we have a good core group of upperclassmen and a good core group of underclassmen with a good division,” Garrett said. “We’re hoping to establish a good, firm foundation for the future.”
Silver Creek didn’t lose many players from last year’s squad that averaged 28 points per game. However, third-year head coach Mike Donahue will have to find a replacement for running back Layne Taylor, who had nearly 1,500 yards from scrimmage and 16 touchdowns a year ago.
Garrett said there are six candidates looking to earn Taylor’s starting running back position — seniors Brad Graham, Zach Reynolds and Eli Jones, sophomores Dalton Collins and Drew Foley and freshman Isaac Lukes. But it’s more likely that the six will share carries, at least early in the season.
“It’s been a good, strong competition,” Garrett said. “Each one of the kids brings something different. [New offensive coordinator Victor Cole] has indicated that instead of one back, we may have a good, deep rotation out of the offensive backfield.”
The good news for Cole’s offense is that quarterback Brooks Howell is back, along with weapons like receiver Drew Sherrow and tight end Austin Hastings. Points should come easily again for the Dragons in 2013.
Of course, defense has been the question mark the past two seasons.
After giving up a state-worst 47 points per game two seasons ago, Creek surrendered nearly 41 per contest last year. Its inability to stop opposing offenses probably cost the Dragons chances to beat Springs Valley, Salem and Clarksville.
“We’ve amped things up in the weight room and we’ve seen some good gains,” Garrett said of his defense. “This is my third season as defensive coordinator, so by benefit of having several kids who have been in the system, we hope to execute better on defense. We’ve had some gains, but we still have a long way to go. I do anticipate being more competitive. Are we where we want to be? Probably not.”
SILVER CREEK DRAGONS
• Departures: RB Layne Taylor, OL Nathan Nolley, OL Tyler Gregory.
• Key returning players: QB Brooks Howell (Sr.), WR Drew Sherrow (Sr.), LB Zach Reynolds (Sr.), DE Brad Graham (Sr.), OL/DL Derek Sheffield (Sr.) OL/DL Schuyler Hosp (Sr.), DB Kaleb Prince (Jr.), LB Jason Jent (Jr.), Austin Hastings (So.).
• Key varsity newcomer: WR Bobby Haines (Sr., transfer from Florida).
• 2012 recap: Silver Creek had its most successful season in 60 years with a 3-7 record. After starting 0-3, the Dragons beat Eastern, North Harrison and Crawford County to win three of their final six regular-season games in just their second full varsity season since the 1940s. Creek’s season ended with a 42-8 loss to Corydon Central in the opening round of Class 3A Sectional 23. It was a moral victory considering the Panthers had scored 70 on Silver Creek just five weeks earlier.
• 2013 expectations: It’s hard to tell what to expect from Silver Creek. The only real weapon the Dragons are losing is Layne Taylor, but he was the bulk of the offense in 2012. If Creek can find a suitable replacement for Taylor and get its defense to improve, there’s no reason it can’t repeat three wins and perhaps get one or two more. The bad news is the Dragons are moving up to Class 4A in 2013, joining the likes of Seymour, Jasper, Evansville Central, Evansville Harrison and 2007 and 2009 Class 4A state champion Evansville Reitz.