(SOUTHSIDER VOICE PHOTOS BY STEVE PAGE)
When not wearing their uniforms, the Decatur Central football players sport T-Shirts with a motto:
“Something to prove”
When asked what that something was, coach Kyle Enright answered: “Everything!”
The meaning is obvious.
In 2022, the Hawks struggled after losing 13 players to college football. They went 2-5 in the Mid-State Conference and 4-7 overall. Their season ended with a 13-10 loss at MSC rival Plainfield in the first round of the Class 5A sectional tournament.
Enright said proving something began following that season.
“We went to work in the classroom, in the weight room and in the community,” he explained.
“With a focus on being great people and students, leaders emerged and huge strides were made in getting back to the winning standard that has been a part of DC football for years.”
He’s right about that.
Just a year earlier, the Hawks won the MSC by going unbeaten in all seven games. They won eight straight games before falling to Cathedral in the second round of the postseason, finishing 9-2 overall.
A year earlier, they were 5-1 and 8-3, and 7-0 and 9-3 in 2019. And in 2018, they won the MSC at 6-1 and raced all the way to the Class 5A state championship game at Lucas Oil Stadium before falling and finishing 12-2.
For the Hawks, this new roster is more than what Enright labels “a solid core of seniors.”
Again, they’ll turn to quarterback Bo Polston, who completed 122 of 229 passes as a freshman, totaling 1,683 yards and 15 touchdowns. He was the No. 3 rusher with 347 yards and three more scores. The 6-2 180-pound sophomore has plenty of help, as four of the top five rushers and three of the top four receivers return.
KC Berry, now a 5-11, 165-pound senior, led DC in rushing last season with 711 yards on 96 carries, averaging 7.4 yards per rush.
Fa’Rel Carter, a 5-11, 160-pound sophomore, was last year’s No 2 receiver with 21 catches for 258 yards. Chris Richmond, now a 5-7, 145-pound senior, was right behind with 15 grabs for 243 yards, followed by Berry with 10 receptions for 229 yards.
Those weren’t huge numbers, but last year, the offense was very young.
Now, many of them are among those seniors to whom their coach was referring: 6-1, 220-pound running back/linebacker Halbert Aguirre, 6-4, 305 two-way lineman Javian Jones, 5-10, 175 running back/defensive back Breydon LaFollette, 5-7, 145 wide receiver/defensive back Chris Richmond, 5-10, 200 linebacker Stephen Oyatayo, 6-0, 230 tight end/defensive lineman MJ Campbell and 5-7, 155 wide receiver/defensive back Elijah Tramil.
Enright is also relying on experienced juniors like 5-11, 180 quarterback/linebacker Brycen Bonawitt, 6-0, 155 running back/defensive back N’Po Dodo, 5-11, 160 kicker/punter Ashton Vogel and 5-11, 160 wide receiver/defensive back Eric Amanfo.
Vogel earned All-MSC honors last season after averaging 34.6 yards on 17 punts and 49 yards on 42 kickoffs. He was good on 22 of 26 conversion kicks and kicked five field goals in seven attempts, scoring 37 points. “He will be a major weapon in the kicking game for the Hawks,” Enright predicted.
Whereas the 2022 team lost many offensive players, this year is the opposite.
“Only four of the top 10 tacklers return on defense, so new faces will be counted on to step in and replace those who graduated,” Enright said. “We will need a very talented and large sophomore class to step in and fill the holes left by graduates.”
They’ll have to fill them quickly.
The Hawks open their season Aug. 18 when they travel to Class 6A Columbus North, which was 5-6 last season. Then they return home Aug. 25 to host New Palestine, which won its first 12 games before falling to Roncalli in the Class 4A state semifinals.
They open Mid-State Conference play Sept. 1 at Whiteland, the Class 5A state runnerup.