Brian Glesing knows there are too many hurdles to still be cleared before Shelbyville football can compete with the top programs in the Hoosier Heritage Conference.
The first-year coach of the Golden Bears has reestablished a strong culture within the program that helped it break a three-year losing streak earlier this season.
Then COVID-19 protocols within the school system shut the football program down for three weeks until it could field enough players for Friday night games.
Now, the third week back from the hiatus brings the stiffest challenge of the season for Shelbyville (1-3, 0-2 HHC) – one final home contest at J.M. McKeand Stadium against Class 4A, No. 5 Mt. Vernon (6-1, 4-0 HHC).
Shelbyville is coming off a 52-0 loss at New Palestine, who lost to Mt. Vernon, 49-10, on Sept. 10.
“They are so much better than us,” said Glesing of New Palestine. “They have talent, they have size, they have strength, they have everything and it was one of those nights where they could do anything they wanted.”
And how does that compare to Mt. Vernon?
“I think they are more athletic and more experienced,” said Glesing.
Shelbyville’s offense has not scored since its return to the field and the defense has allowed 87 points. Glesing continues to teach the game and saw last Friday night as a character test.
“I thought defensively we lined up right, especially for being out for three weeks,” he said. “Defensively, we lined up right in week one about 50% of the time. Last week it was 90-95% of the time and that’s a big battle when you have a new system.”
Glesing is adamant the defense needs to get better at limiting big plays.
“We cannot give up big plays, plays over 20 yards, defensively,” he said. “We have to break down and make the tackle and make them earn their touchdowns.”
In losses to Yorktown (35-0) and New Palestine (52-0), the offense has failed to control the line of scrimmage and rack up first downs.
“We have to get more first downs. (New Palestine) overwhelmed us at the point of attack,” said Glesing, who is 119-97 in 19 seasons as a head coach in Indiana.
Mt. Vernon comes to Shelbyville with a pair of rushers with nearly 1,000 yards combined and a quarterback who has thrown for nearly 1,500 yards.
Keagan LaBelle (5-foot-8, 170 pounds) has 524 rushing yards and seven touchdowns. Travon Hegler (5-10, 188) has 455 yards rushing and seven touchdowns. Both are seniors.
Senior quarterback Gehrig Slunaker has completed 66% of his pass attempts for 1,428 yards and 17 touchdowns. His favorite targets are senior Ashden Gentry (21 receptions, 505 yards, 7 TDs), and juniors George Burhenn (16 receptions, 271 yards, 3 TDs) and Eli Bridenthal (15 receptions, 297 yards, 3 TDs).
The Marauders control the HHC standings with at least a two-game lead over the other programs except New Palestine, who has just one HHC loss.
On Friday, Delta (4-3, 1-3 HHC) is at 4A No. 13 Greenfield-Central (4-3, 2-2 HHC), New Castle (2-5, 1-3 HHC) is at New Palestine (4-3, 4-1 HHC), and 4A No. 14 Pendleton Heights (4-3, 2-3 HHC) travels to Yorktown (4-3, 2-3 HHC).
Friday is Senior Night at McKeand Stadium. With everything the Shelbyville program has been through this fall, Glesing hopes the seniors enjoy what could be their final time playing in front of a home crowd.
“It could be that last home football game after all the sweat and blood you left on the football field,” said Glesing. “It’s definitely a big deal. It could be the last time you put on the pads on that field.”
Shelbyville will learn its postseason fate Sunday when the Indiana High School Athletic Association airs the football pairings show beginning at 5 p.m. on IHSAAtv.org.
Glesing has no special plans to watch. Although the Golden Bears are in Sectional 21 with Mt. Vernon, there are potential pairings that could allow the program to extend its season an extra week or two.
“That’s a neat thing about this tournament. If it was seeded, we would be playing Mt. Vernon and our kids would shut down,” explained Glesing. “We would be the eighth seed or the seventh seed … who knows. That’s why I don’t like seeding. It wouldn’t make for a good game. They (seed) in Kentucky and the first round scores are awful. This is the only fair way and it’s a great Indiana tradition. I might be in the minority, but I love the draw.”
If Sectional 21 was seeded, Mt. Vernon would be a clear cut No. 1 with Greenfield-Central and Pendleton Heights following. That would leave New Castle as a No. 4 seed with Shelbyville potentially being No. 5 based on Sagarin ratings.
Listed below the Golden Bears in the ratings system for the sectional are Muncie Central (1-6), Richmond (1-6) and Connersville (1-6).
Richmond’s lone win came against Connersville. Shelbyville and Muncie Central have wins over Richmond.