By DOUG ZALESKI
Mikey Goul has been a member of the Muncie Central football program all four years of his prep career. He’s watched or been a part of the Bearcats’ 11 victories in the previous three seasons.
But this year has been different for the senior receiver. Central is in danger of going winless in the regular season for only the second time in the past 25 years. After losing 35-0 at home Friday against McCutcheon, the Bearcats have only one more chance to claim a regular-season victory.
While that disappointment is felt by everyone in the program, the players haven’t quit on themselves or their teammates. They continue to play hard in search of an elusive win.
“We just play for each other,” Goul said. “Even though we’re 0-8, we have fun, we play for each other, and we don’t let each other down.
“Maybe sometimes we slack off, but we get on each other, we say, ‘Pick up the pace’ or ‘Let’s keep going.’ It’s all a brotherhood around here.”
Central (0-8, 0-6 North Central Conference) played gritty on a miserable night for football. It fought through rain the entire game and 45-degree temperatures and trailed only 14-0 going into the fourth quarter. It wasn’t until a 21-point spurt (aided by a Central fumble and interception deep in its territory) in the final 7:45 that McCutcheon (4-4, 4-2 NCC) was able to put the game away.
Central still shows growing pains in a program led by first-year head coach Darrick Lee, but he doesn’t detect players have given up.
“We played great in the first half, we were prepared, ready, and I think we matched some of (McCutcheon’s) intensity and toughness,” Lee said. “In the second half … we kind of ran out of gas.”
That hasn’t been the case in many games. Lee thinks his players have given everything they have and continue to battle and push for improvement.
“It’s definitely very challenging and frustrating because we’re right there, but we aren’t able to get over the hump,” he said. “I feel like we’ve been saying that for eight weeks now, particularly in five or six of our games that we were in and had a chance.
“Our kids played hard. I do think the team across the field from us played harder, but our kids didn’t quit.”
The Bearcats have one more chance to avoid a winless regular season when they play next Friday at Logansport against a team that is just 1-7. After that comes sectional play, and Central players and coaches believe they could find some success there.
The sectional field includes several teams that have struggled this year. Connersville and Shelbyville are 0-8, Greenfield-Central is 1-7 and New Castle is 2-6.
The only team in the eight-team field with a winning record is Mount Vernon at 6-2. Pendleton Heights has the next-best mark at 4-4.
The sectional draw is Sunday, and a favorable result could put the Bearcats in position to win at least one game. They’re hopeful of even more.
“If the draw goes in our favor, we feel we have a chance at the championship,” Goul said. “There are about two good teams in that draw, Pendleton Heights and Mount Vernon, and there are a lot of teams like us that are looking for the draw to go in their favor.”
Lee said the goal he gave his players last spring as school was letting out for the summer was to be competitive in every game and be ready for the sectional.
“That’s what we’ve been preaching all year,” Lee said. “I truly believe we have a chance to win the sectional. It comes down to wanting to work every single day, wanting to get better, and wanting to have some team success.”