One will console, one will celebrate

4A state title berth on the line.
Posted on Nov. 15, 2012 at 12:00 a.m. | Updated on Nov. 16, 2012 at 6:44 a.m.

Maybe it's fate. Perhaps irony.

Or call it clairvoyance.

It's eerie anyway you slice it.

It was an unsually cold, rainy Friday night in August — the night of the football scrimmage between Concord and Mishawaka.

An ugly night considering it was 107 degrees out four weeks earlier.

Concord coach Tim Dawson joked with Mishawaka's Bart Curtis in a midfield team meeting before things got rolling.

“When we're home, I bring the teams up, introduce the officials, welcome them,'' Dawson said. “When it ended, I said, 'Good luck .. Who knows? Maybe we'll meet in the semsitate.”

Curtis said he commented about whether to even have the scrimmage.

“I thought maybe we should get together in November and play in the semistate,'' he said.

With a berth in the Class 4A state finals at stake, the Minutemen and Cavemen will do just that — play a semistate game tonight at Jake Field.

It should be a full house. It would be wise to get your ticket early.

Two schools, separated by a 20-minute drive over Mishawaka Road and Lincolnway, who never play each other.

Two friends, former presidents of the Indiana Football Coaches Association.

Coaches who would be rooting for each other every night in the tournament.

Just not tonight.

Beginning with the 7 p.m. kickoff and over the following two-and-a-half hours, Dawson and Curtis would like nothing more than to smack the November snot out of the other.

Then they'll shake hands.

One coach will console and reflect. One coach will celebrate.

“For 51 weeks of the year, I love those guys, but they want to beat our tails and we want to beat their tails,” Curtis said. “It'll be an honor and a privilege to coach against him.”

Dawson said he texted Curtis earlier this week about getting together and discussing formations and defensive schemes like they do in August prior to the scrimmage.

“I was teasing Bart ... I never got a response,” Dawson said.

My guess is that Curtis was laughing too hard to get his fingers to work on his cell phone.

Even though Mishawaka's option offense is something Concord won't see in its NLC season, Dawson likes having the Cavemen as a preseason tuneup.

He just doesn't want his team to get tuned up.

“They always play hard. That's one of the reasons we continue to scrimmage them because ... we know we'll find out what our weaknesses are,” Dawson said. “And it's going to be physical. They're always a class act.”

Concord and Mishawaka have had their hold-your-breath moments in the tourney.

East Noble erased a 21-point Concord lead in the sectional and the Minutemen trailed at Dwenger by seven at halftime. Concord won each time.

South Bend Washington had a 28-7 lead on the Cavemen in the first half and Hobart had MHS down, too. Mishawaka won each time.

It's not supposed to be easy.

“Our kids, they've bought in ... all their chips are in,” Dawson said about his team this week. “But I also told them the opponent also is doing the same thing. They have visions and dreams, too.”

“We've talked about the 'It' factor, the team chemistry. Some teams have it, some teams don't,” Curtis said. “When you fight back from tough times, things start rolling your way. It does something to you.

“It gives you that extra oomph, that extra confidence. That's a credit to our senior class and the guys out here coaching.”

The semistate. It's the game players desperately want to win.

To lose now ranks among the unthinkable.

If you reach Indianapolis, people remember that — the community, the players, the whole school — whether you win it all or fall short.

Stumble tonight and it goes down in history as another playoff loss.

To players and coaches, it registers as a recurring belly punch.

Huge crowd surrounding a stadium. Huge hearts on the field.

Huge opportunity and an equally huge heartache await.

“Where it all started,” said Curtis, “is where it's going to end.”

Buckle up, Mishawaka and Concord.

Game on.

Bill Beck can be contacted at bbeck@etruth.com

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