Knights motivated to reach playoffs

Knights motivated to reach playoffs

FARMER CITY — Bob Sutton knows exactly what the 2017 Blue Ridge football season meant to the program, school and surrounding community.

The Knights' previous campaign ended in winless fashion. Blue Ridge didn't even field a gridiron group from 2013 through 2015, and its squad collected just eight victories in the 11 years prior to that hiatus.

But in 2017, the Knights finished 4-5, just one triumph shy of postseason qualification.

"To this community, that's big because they haven't won very many games in the past," said Sutton, entering his third year on the sidelines. "However, with our kids, that's not good enough. We've got to get better than that."

That's a mindset Blue Ridge rooters can get excited about. It's clear that mentality exists with the Knights' roster as well.

Sutton recalls "17, 18 kids" coming out when Sutton and his brother rebooted Knights football in 2016. And now, for the institution of 228 students?

"Now we're at 30 to 35," Sutton said. "So every year we're growing, and hopefully it builds some excitement in the school and gets more kids out to play."

Blue Ridge does face a unique challenge, however — one that no other area program must confront at this time.

The Knights are devoid of conference affiliation, existing as one of eight independent football teams this year.

"The travel time is probably the roughest part," said Sutton, who noted Blue Ridge's closest road game is roughly two hours from Farmer City. "Not competing for a conference title (is tough), of course, and the kids not being able to be all-conference."

Blue Ridge football is expected to join the Little Okaw Valley Conference for the 2019-2020 academic year, but Blue Ridge was one of 11 local schools that announced it would leave the LOVC after the 2018-19 school season.

Still, a new league is anticipated to form from the LOVC's rubble, so it appears likely the Knights won't face the struggles of program independence much longer.

But Sutton must focus on the present, which means contests with a pair of Indiana programs and two more tilts against teams whose enrollment doubles that of Blue Ridge.

"There are a couple games that obviously are (against) a lot bigger schools than what we had anticipated," Sutton said, "but that's what we had to do to fill the schedule. That's one of the disappointments of being independent."

Sutton and his boys maintain high expectations in spite of this reality heading into the season opener on Aug. 24 at Martinsville.

Junior Brady Masengale is entering his third campaign as the Knights' starting quarterback. Senior rusher Keegan Lyle and junior defensive lineman Wayne Bowns also project to be integral pieces in any Blue Ridge success, and Sutton said sophomore linebacker Kolby Kramer is one guy to keep on the radar since "he's a senior playing in a sophomore's body."

Sutton can wrap all of this positive energy into a single phrase, too.

"They don't quit," Sutton said of his pupils. "Our team motto this year is, 'Trust the process,' and for the most part everybody has."

BLUE RIDGE'S 2018 schedule

DATE OPPONENT TIME

Aug. 24 at Martinsville 7 p.m.

Aug. 31 vs. Oblong 7 p.m.

Sept. 7 at Macomb 7 p.m.

Sept. 14 vs. Milledgeville 7 p.m.

Sept. 21 at Paris 7 p.m.

Sept. 29 vs. Red Hill 1 p.m.

Oct. 5 vs. Covington (Ind.) 6:30 p.m.

Oct. 12 vs. South Newton (Ind.) 7 p.m.

Oct. 19 at Metro-East Lutheran 7 p.m.

Sections (3):Prep Sports, Football, Sports
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