By GREG MENGELT
FLOYDS KNOBS —
Floyd Central coach Brian Glesing’s summation of the Highlanders’ 2012 season was simple.
“It was unacceptable,” Glesing said on Tuesday. “That’s out of character for us. The players knew it was unacceptable.”
They decided to do something about it.
The 28 Highlander seniors put in the work in the offseason, brought the team together and turned last year’s 2-8 season into 8-2 so far in 2013.
They finished second behind Class 4A No. 1 Columbus East in the Hoosier Hills Conference, defeated rival Providence, Jeffersonville and New Albany, and on Friday, Floyd Central travels to Whiteland to play the Warriors for the Class 5A Sectional 14 title.
“Senior leadership goes a long way,” Floyd senior defensive end Lucas Quinkert said. “That’s the biggest thing. It really comes down to attitude, effort and enthusiasm. Turning around from a 2-8 season, that was definitely a big deal for us.”
“It all starts with good hard work and dedication,” offensive lineman Aaron Smith said. “We decided as seniors, we did not want to have that kind of season again. The seniors wanted to turn things around this season. As seniors, we all pushed each other and pushed the underclassmen to work together.”
Glesing said he was convinced all along that a special senior class would help turn the program back in the right direction.
“They refused to lose,” he said. “It’s been a great turnaround for us. It’s been an enjoyable season, regardless of our record.”
The season didn’t start as planned. In a home game against Louisville Male, the Highlanders were beaten 62-16. That could have been deflating for a team with expectations for a turnaround, but the Highlanders have won eight of their last nine heading into Friday’s sectional championship.
“The thought was there of, ‘Oh, no, here we go,’” Smith admitted. “But we realized we put up a decent fight against a really good team. It wasn’t so bad after we stepped up and realized [how good the opponent was], but in the moment, we were upset about it.”
Glesing said the Male loss didn’t concern him at all.
“It gave us a wake-up call,” Glesing said, “and the following week we beat up on Providence, then we beat New Albany and Jeff. We’re the best team in Clark-Floyd County.”
The Highlanders followed the Male loss with wins over Providence, Madison and Seymour. However, it wasn’t until a 28-14 win over Jeffersonville that the players started to realize how special 2013 could be.
“The first game where it was like ‘Wow! We’re pretty good’ was after we went to Jeff’s house and beat them,” Smith said. “After that, we all realized we had some serious potential this year.”
After the loss to East, Floyd followed with four straight wins heading into Friday.
“We had our sights set on this all summer,” Smith said. “We wanted to go to the sectional championship. I feel like we deserve it, and I feel like we’re ready.”
“I had big expectations for this year,” Quinkert said. “Going out and getting that sectional, that’s the big thing right now.”
In Whiteland, the Highlanders will face a similar team to theirs. Like Floyd, the Warriors are 8-2 with losses against top-ranked teams. The two teams are similar sizes and have comparable athletic abilities.
“Obviously, from here on out, you’re playing good football teams,” Glesing said. “They have big-play capability and put a lot of points on the board, so we’re going to have to be disciplined defensively.”
“It’s going to come down to who runs the football better,” Quinkert said. “We’re two power football teams. Which defense steps up and makes big plays and who wants it more?”
In the end, the Highlanders believe will leave Whiteland with their second sectional crown in five years.
“I expect this to be a win,” Smith said. “I think we have the heart and go up there and show them what Floyd Central football is made of.”
“Winning the sectional, after what we’ve been through, would mean everything to me,” Quinkert added.