TROY – The Mississinawa Valley Blackhawks eyed the ultimate upset Friday night against the 8-1 Troy Christian Eagles.
Although they were outmatched, undersized and outscored, the Blackhawks showed heart and played with perseverance on every down.
The Blackhawks couldn’t have asked for a better opening to the game. Mississinawa Valley surprised the Troy Christian Eagles with an onside kick, which the Hawks were able to recover.
The offense took the field under the wing of freshman quarterback Cody Dirksen, electing to pass on their opening set, but were unable to pick up a first down.
After the punt and return, Troy Christian scored on a 40-yard touchdown pass to take a 7-0 lead.
“They’re ranked No. 2 in the region for a reason,” Mississinawa Valley football coach Mike Griffin said about his opponent.
Mississinawa Valley answered with a good return, starting the drive at its own 36, but an early holding penalty crushed the Blackhawks’ chances. Although Dirksen, who would play with poise while under heavy pressure the entire night, completed a solid pass down the sideline for 14 yards, they were still unable to convert. After the punt, the Eagles scored on a 49-yard pass.
On the next drive Troy Christian intercepted the ball and took it in for the score, taking a 21-0 lead on just four offensive plays.
On the following drive, Mississinawa Valley’s punt was blocked near its own end zone, but the Blackhawks were able to force a fumble on Troy Christian’s first play to get the ball back. Still unable to get into a throwing rhythm, MV, again, had to punt.
Troy Christian scored on the very next play, taking a 28-0 lead. By the end of the first quarter, the score would be 42-0, but the Blackhawks and Coach Griffin would not simply roll over.
“We just couldn’t get blocks. Some of the things were there. We just couldn’t execute. We had four dropped passes in the first half. You can’t do that against a good team,” Coach Griffin said. “We gotta get those (Troy Christian) linemen block, and I know it was a tall task for our kids, but they tried hard – they came out and they fought, and that’s all I asked them to do. Just fight.”
Mississinawa Valley was never outmatched or out-coached. The players’ heart overcame the size difference of the two teams, and their passing attack created a lot of opportunities to move the ball, but costly fumbles, interceptions and incompletions quickly piled up – a hole impossible to climb out of again the talent of Troy Christian. The Blackhawks ultimately lost 63-0, but they fought through the final play of the game.
Coach Griffin was sad to see his seniors go: “Great group of kids – the first seniors I’ve had as a head coach. They did a lot of good things. Trent Perkins was a great leader all year. Wade Gilbert played his butt off on the line. Andrew Johns played at several different positions. Noah Hopkins came out and played well for us. Then JJ (Howard) has been great at receiver for us as well. Brandon Beanblossom, first-year kid, played really well for us. He’s tough as nails. I’m going to miss those kids and the leadership they bring. Hopefully some of these younger guys will pick up the slack, and I think they will.”
Although the Mississinawa Valley Blackhawks ended the season without a win, Coach Griffin and many of the returning players are excited to get back on the field and continue the progress that had been made this season.
Watching the after-game huddle, where each coach gave a lengthy speech, it was apparent that the players loved their coaches and would play for them through the good and the bad.
“I told the underclassmen to get this thing going,” Coach Griffin said. “It’s going to take one of those classes to step up, recruit players and to take leadership. We only had 21 kids in pads today. We just need more numbers. We need someone to change this thing. We need someone to say ‘we’re sick of being 0-10,’ and I think some of those kids will step up and do that. We have some kids that were visibly upset about losing this game and for the season to be over. You gotta love that from your underclassmen.”
On what he told his seniors: “Anything they ever need, they’ve been a great group of kids for me through this 0-10 season. I will give them anything they need. For them to stick out and play football for a program that’s been 2-38, that says something about their character.”
While the season is ultimately decided by wins and losses, Mississinawa Valley has a bright future under dedicated Coach Griffin and his returning players for 2017.