Anyone who saw Mishawaka’s run to the Class 4-A high school football state championship game last season knows that the Cavemen are never going to shy away from a fight.
Mishawaka rallied for several heart-thumping victories on its road to Lucas Oil Stadium for a shot at gridiron gold.
Perennial state power Indianapolis Cathedral prevailed, 56-29, but the players returning this season who experienced the playoff run made sure that the experience will benefit this season’s Cavemen attack.
Mishawaka will tackle an even tougher field this season as it moves up to Class 5-A.
Senior hitman Cameron Thomas, an outside linebacker, said that Mishawaka is eager to embrace the challenge.
“I think it’s a good step for our team,” Thomas said. “It will mean more competition. Coach (Bart) Curtis will have us prepared for it when we go into the sectionals. We thrive on challenges.
“The way we see it, if it’s easy, it’s wrong. If it’s hard, that’s how it’s supposed to be. If we work hard, we’ll be ready to step up.”
Thomas said that last season’s playoff experiences will pay dividends this season.
“The extra practices we had through the playoffs helped us,” he said. “It taught us that even if it’s not going your way, if you keep going until the time is up, the game might go your way.
“We had a game with Washington, we were down by 21 at halftime. Then we came out and came back and won. If things aren’t going your way, that’s not the time to put your head down and quit. That’s the time to step up. If your backs are against the wall, you have to come out and stick it to them.”
Senior Angelo Multari, an electrifying play-maker at running back, said that the Cavemen learned from last season.
“Having the experience of going to state brings a different dimension to this team,” Multari said.
“We believe in each other. We all know what it takes to get the job done, and we’re ready to do what we have to do to win. Playing in the state championship game showed us that you really have to step up your game if you want to win state. The competition there is real. You have to work your hardest, and that’s what we’re going to do, work our hardest.”
Cavemen senior defensive back Kyle Carlson also said he and his teammates learned valuable lessons last season.
“Every single game in the playoffs are win-or-go-home,” Carlson said. “Playing in those games helped us learn about playing under pressure. That will help us handle those kind of situations this season. ... We know what it feels like to win. That just makes you want to do it more and more.”
Senior leadership will be a big element in Mishawaka’s fight for success this season.
“We’re a close class,” Thomas said. “I’ve grown up with these guys. I know how they are. They’re hard workers. You can trust them. That’s important when you’re working together to win football games. If it’s the fourth quarter and it’s fourth-and-1, you’ve got to know they have your back and you have theirs in order to make the play.”
Carlson said that the seniors are eager for another shot at hoisting the state championship trophy.
“The seniors on this team are hungry,” he said. “You don’t want your best year to be your junior year. You want your best year to be your senior year. The seniors know we have to step up. We lost a lot of good players. We have to try to replace them. Not one player replace one player, but the entire team taking steps to replace everyone.”
According to Thomas, the Cavemen have the fight they need to bring pride to Steele Stadium.
“This year is just like every year,” Thomas said. “We’re under-sized, and every other team is probably stronger than us. What we have going for us is drive. You have to want it. You’ve got to want to win. That’s all there is to it. If you go harder than the guys across from you, you’re going to win.”