The last three go-arounds of precisely this same matchup have punctuated just how untelling a season opener can be, but don't try telling that to Troy Noble and Ronnie Thomas.
When the Central Blue Blazers and Northridge Raiders square off for a 13th straight Thanksgiving eve Wednesday, Noble will be in his first game as Blazer coach and Thomas in his first as Raider coach.
Each sounds like he wants to win badly, immediately, never mind that there will be 19 more games to play in the regular season afterwards.
In other words, welcome to 2012-13 and the latest renewal of the wonderfully ferocious and precocious competitiveness that is Indiana high school boys basketball.
The area season actually begins tonight, Nov. 20.
Among the notable matchups right away, Jim Buller tries to set a record for Elkhart County boys coaching victories when he and Bethany Christian visit Westview, and defending area scoring champion Jake Thompson makes his return from a shoulder injury when he and Wawasee host Fairfield.
Thompson averaged 24.1 points over 12 games last season, but missed the final 11 contests.
Buller stands even with long-ago John Longfellow at 364 wins. He'll need an upset to ring up No. 365 in Topeka. The Warriors are 25-2 over the last two years at home, and have won in this annual season-opening matchup 14 straight times.
As for the Central-Northridge showdown, it features an extreme rarity by virtue of having two Elkhart County boys coaches matching up in the first game for each at his respective school. Such hasn't happened in at least a couple decades.
“We want to maximize our potential, play to our ability and play with great focus,” Noble says of what he hopes to accomplish in the opener.
“We want to set a tone, set a mentality of how we're going to play. We're going to come after people,” Thomas says.
Easy, gentlemen, save some for February.
After all, a season ago, the Blazers won 56-54. Yet, Central wound up going just 5-18, compared to Northridge's 10-11.
The season before that, the Raiders won 61-57. Yet, Northridge wound up going 7-14, compared to Central's 13-11.
And the season before that, the Raiders won 61-40. Yet, Northridge wound up going 5-16, compared to Central's 11-12
Just for the record, no, the idea shouldn't be to lose, as each of the nine Thanksgiving eve matchups preceding the last three did go to the team that wound up with the better record.
Still, wacky stuff recently.
“It's always been a kind of big game, at least the premier game that night,” says Thomas, a 2005 Northridge graduate who will now become the first individual to both play and head coach in the turkey eve series.
It's become a little bigger the last five years, too, ever since Northridge started coming back to the Elkhart Sectional for postseason. The first such year, the Raiders won 64-62 in the regular season, but the Blazers took the sectional rematch 59-56.
Ultimately, though, history means little to Thomas, and even less to Noble, since he's entirely new to the rivalry.
Noble's greater concern is what he terms “game slippage.”
“A lot of times in practice, with the coaches harping on you, you can make the right decisions,” Noble says, “but when there's a few thousand people in the gym, when the lights are on and the coach is sitting down in a tie and suit, it's different. The difference is what some of us coaches call game slippage. We've got to minimize our game slippage.”
Welcome to 2012-13, and here's to all teams minimizing their game slippage.
Anthony Anderson is The Elkhart Truth's assistant sports editor. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Last season's records in parentheses)
Ÿ Fairfield (8-13) at Wawasee (10-13)
Ÿ Bethany Christian (10-11) at Westview (21-6)
Ÿ Granger Christian (13-17) at Clinton Christian (13-14)
Ÿ Central (5-18) at Northridge (10-11), girl/boy DH
Ÿ Gary 21st Century (10-11) vs. Central at North Side Gym
Ÿ Glenn (11-12) at Goshen (11-10)
Ÿ Northridge at Westview
Ÿ West Noble (13-11) at Bethany Christian
Ÿ Wawasee at Angola (4-18)
Ÿ Hamilton (2-19) at Clinton Christian