The Shelbyville High School football program was due for a break.
That break came Sunday when the Indiana High School Athletic Association announced the sectional pairings for the state tournament.
If the Class 4A, Sectional 21 field was seeded, Shelbyville, Richmond, Connersville and Muncie Central would be the bottom four seeds.
The IHSAA does a random draw for each sectional tournament across the state. That draw put those four programs in the top half of the eight-team bracket creating a modicum of hope, but not just for the Golden Bears.
“I have had people telling me all week what a good draw we got,” said first-year Shelbyville coach Brian Glesing. “My first response is guess who else thinks they got a good draw? Richmond!”
Shelbyville will open the sectional tournament on Oct. 22 at home against Richmond, the one team the Golden Bears have beaten this season (22-16 on Aug. 27).
In fact, Shelbyville (1-4), Richmond (1-7), Connersville (1-7) and Muncie Central (1-7) each have just one win in the first eight weeks of the season. Connersville and Muncie Central will meet in the other quarterfinal game in the top half of the bracket.
Those two winners will meet on Oct. 29 in the sectional semifinal round.
Before all that, Shelbyville must close out the regular season Friday at Pendleton Heights (4-4, 2-4 Hoosier Heritage Conference).
The Arabians are led by senior quarterback Luke Candiano, who has completed 45% of his pass attempts for 831 yards and seven touchdowns.
Senior Ethan Ross (66 carries, 402 yards) and sophomore James Malone (65 carries, 386 yards) are the team’s leading rushers this season. Candiano (83 carries, 277 yards, 4 TDs) is third.
Senior Marvin Jones Jr. (19 receptions, 134 yards) and sophomore Reese Reddington (14 receptions, 150 yards) are Candiano’s top targets.
“We have our work cut out for us,” said Glesing. “It’s a different kind of Pendleton Heights team … relying on the running game.”
Since its three-week hiatus due to COVID-19 and contact tracing protocols, Shelbyville’s offense has been stifled. The Golden Bears have not scored in 10 straight quarters in losses to Yorktown (35-0), New Palestine (52-0) and Mt. Vernon (49-0) – three of the top four teams in the HHC standings.
“We have to get our rhythm going,” said Glesing. “We haven’t been able to get much rhythm going, get first downs and control the ball. If we don’t do that (Friday), we will see a running clock again.”
The Mt. Vernon game last Friday ended at halftime when the McKeand Stadium lights went dark. Glesing confirmed there was an electrical short that took time to find and repair. The lights were on Tuesday night at McKeand Stadium when both Shelbyville Middle School football teams ended their seasons with winning records.
Pendleton Heights started the season 3-0 but have lost four of five against the top half of the HHC standings and have scored 10 points or less in three of the last four games.
Around the HHC Friday, Class 4A, No. 5 Mt. Vernon (7-1, 6-0 HHC) can clinch the outright conference championship with a win over Yorktown (5-3, 3-3 HHC).
New Palestine (5-3, 5-1 HHC) will finish no worse than second in the standings. The Dragons are at Delta (4-4, 1-4 HHC).
With a win at New Castle (2-6, 1-4 HHC), Class 4A, No. 11 Greenfield-Central (5-3, 3-2 HHC) will secure a third-place finish in the conference.
The bottom half of the Sectional 21 bracket has Pendleton Heights at Mt. Vernon and Greenfield-Central at New Castle.
With a win in their sectional opener, the Golden Bears will travel to Muncie Central or Connersville for the semifinals.