SELLERSBURG — Silver Creek will kick off its seventh full varsity football season this Friday at home against Charlestown.
When looking at the Dragons — who finished 5-5 last season and bring a lot of talent back — it's tough to see that they're still a young program.
"We don't talk about [being young] anymore," coach John Dablow said before last Friday's scrimmage against Seymour. "I think every once in awhile you see hints of it sometimes that come out because there's no real tradition here, necessarily. We don't have that yet, but we're building it. It's hard to win on a Friday night. Those coaches who can win on a year-to-year basis — the Brownstowns and Charlestowns — it's hard to do."
The top two Mid-Southern Conference teams lately, Charlestown and Brownstown, will both enter the 2017 season without key players from a year ago. While Dablow wasn't willing to predict an MSC title for his team, the Dragons have plenty of reasons for confidence.
"We think we can compete," he said. "Charlestown and Brownstown have such tradition and such good coaches that I don't care how many people they lose, they're going to be good. The other teams as well — I think everyone in the conference is going to come up a little bit from where they were last year. We just have to come out and play every Friday night."
Silver Creek will be tested right out of the gate with a home matchup against Charlestown this Friday. The Dragons have not yet defeated the rival Pirates.
"I think it's great," Dablow said of the Week 1 rivalry game. "There's always an excitement at the beginning of the season. It's not the most ideal to start with a conference opponent, but we like it. Maybe that's because we're hosting this year. We've never beaten those guys, so to come out the gate [against them] has been a nice motivational factor for us in the weight room and in the offseason."
There are plenty of returners for Silver Creek who will contribute. Senior Jacob Garrett will be a bulldozer again at fullback and also plays end on a defensive line that returns three starters. Garrett, who's been involved with Dragons program since his youth, has seen the growth of the program first-hand.
"I've been basically here every step of the way," Garrett said. "All the other sports in our school are really competitive in everything they do. I think the tradition is strong and competitive across the school, and I think that just carried over with all the athletes [to football]."
Silver Creek's Wing-T offense has become a mark of the program. That said, the Dragon defense — a 4-4, Cover 3 scheme — shouldn't be overlooked. Last season, it held opponents under 26 points in all but one game and kept them under 20 in six contests.
Isesis Lukes, a senior cornerback and returning starter, says the defense is a big part of the team's success.
"Me being a defensive player, I'm going to tell you defense is the team," he said. "We take a lot of pride in stopping teams from scoring."
On the defensive side of the ball, the Dragons return three lineman, a couple linebackers, a corner and a safety. Josh Thompson, now playing at Hanover, will be a key loss. Part of the reason for the defensive success is Dablow's willingness to give his defensive coaches their choice of players.
"We know we can't win if we don't stop anybody," he said. "Defense is what we preach and we're going to put our guys on defense and try to run the ball [on offense]. We think that we can competitive every week if we do those two things."
While running is stressed on offense, the Dragons also have the opportunity to throw this season. Josh Landers is back under center and he has a new weapon on the outside in Bennett Beyl. Beyl fills the void left by Zane Gross, who chose to focus on basketball this season.
"Bennett's 6-foot-5, so we think that's a nice option for us — for him to go up and get the football," Dablow said. "It's a nice little threat for us on the edge."
Add one of the area's top specialists in punter/kicker Daniel Barrett, and the Dragons should be looking at a successful season. A win against Charlestown in Week 1 would be big for Silver Creek — not just for year's team, but for the program.
"We say the Creek is rising because people might not believe that we're a program yet," Lukes said. "I think we're going to show them this year."
2017 SILVER CREEK DRAGONS
• Head Coach: John Dablow (11-10 in third season at Silver Creek, 28-54 in ninth season overall).
• 2016: Sliver Creek went 5-5 overall and 3-4 in the Mid-Southern Conference. For the second year in a row, the Dragons defeated Seymour in the regular season only to have the Owls eliminate them from the postseason.
• Sectional 23 opponents: East Central, Edgewood, Franklin County, Jennings County, Madison, Scottsburg, South Dearborn.
• Dablow says: ""We know we can't win if we don't stop anybody. Defense is what we preach and we're going to put our guys on defense and try to run the ball."
Aug. 18, Charlestown, 7 p.m.
Aug. 25, at Salem, 7 p.m.
Sept. 1 at Providence, 7 p.m.
Sept. 8, Eastern, 7 p.m.
Sept. 15, at Scottsburg, 7 p.m.
Sept. 22, Clarksville, 7 p.m.
Sept. 29, at North Harrison, 7 p.m.
Oct. 6, at Brownstown Central, 7 p.m.
Oct. 13, Corydon Central, 7 p.m.
Aug. 19, Seymour, W, 29-16
Aug. 26, at Salem, L, 21-24
Sept. 2, Corydon Central, W, 44-16
Sept. 9, at Eastern, W, 44-7
Sept. 16, at Charlestown, L, 14-26
Sept. 23, Clarksville, W, 68-6
Sept. 30, North Harrison, L, 13-14 (OT)
Oct. 7, at Brownstown, L, 14-52
Oct. 14, at Scottsburg, W, 41-7
Oct. 21, at Seymour*, L, 6-24
* Sectional game
LAST 20 YEARS
Coach: John Dablow
• 2016: 5-5
• 2015: 6-5
Coach: Jason Hawkins
• 2014: 4-5
Coach: Mike Donahue
• 2013: 4-7
• 2012: 3-7
• 2011: 0-10
• 2010: 0-1
• Sectional championships (0): None.
• Regional championships (0): None.
• Semistate championships (0): None.
• State championships (0): None.