TERRE HAUTE —
If Terre Haute North reaches some of its bigger high school football goals this fall, the Patriots may have their biggest rivals — and a big other-worldly supporter — to thank, Ricky Brookins indicated this week.
Currently ranked eighth in Class 5A, North hosts Southport — ranked 10th in Class 6A — at 7:30 p.m. today in the first of six Conference Indiana games against foes unfamiliar to the Patriots.
North is currently 2-1, 0-1 in the league, so an unbeaten season is out of the question and a conference championship will require some help. But there are other things it can accomplish, particularly if that come-from-ahead 28-24 loss to Terre Haute South two weeks ago has taught the Patriots anything.
Brookins, the team’s co-captain, leading rusher and probably its biggest dispenser of smiles, thinks the lesson has been learned. Asked this week if there was a danger he and his teammates might underestimate their new opponents, after a steady diet of Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference powerhouses the past few years, he admitted there might have been — at one point.
“Losing that South game kind of shocked us,” he said.
“They shut us down … maybe that was a sign from God to let us know we can’t think that [Conference Indiana will be easier].”
No matter how stiff the Conference Indiana competition proves to be, Brookins said this week he’s looking forward to it, however.
“It’s exciting to see new people and new talent,” he said. “We have to watch a lot of film [having never seen most of the new opponents in past seasons], but in the end, we just have to go out and play football.”
The players aren’t the only ones watching extra film, coach Chris Barrett said.
“It’s kind of exciting, preparing for teams we haven’t faced before,” Barrett said, “but there’s a lot of work to do. In the past, if we didn’t have enough current film, we could just use old scouting reports [against MIC teams], but now we’re starting fresh.”
Of course, the six other Conference Indiana teams haven’t seen a lot of the Patriots either — although they’ll probably see as much or more of Brookins than they’d like to soon enough.
The 5-foot-9, 185-pound senior is currently averaging over 150 yards rushing per game, nearly nine yards per carry, and has scored seven touchdowns. Those numbers would be even bigger except for the Patriots’ margin of victory in their two wins, which meant more rest than Brookins wanted.
“He wants the ball in his hands, and when he doesn’t get it he’s disappointed — but disappointed in a good way,” Barrett said.
In case he’s not busy enough offensively — and he lines up both in the slot and behind the quarterback on offense — Brookins is also part of the North defense, sharing a cornerback spot with Kai Stratten, and also returns kickoffs and punts.
“His sophomore year he was in the slot, did a little returning and played some defense, but then he got hurt and mised some games. Last year he was all over the place,” Barrett said. “We ask him to do so much, and he does well at all those things.
“I’d hate to see what he could do if he just had to play running back.”
“I’m just going out there and doing the things I’ve been coached to do,” Brookins said. “When I follow my blockers — [the North offensive linemen are] great — good things happen.”
Good things have been happening for his team too, Brookins was eager to point out.
“We’re doing pretty good — with the exception of the South game, obviously,” he said. “Everybody’s working hard, and we’re going into every game expecting to win.
“We have to keep practicing hard, keep a high tempo … we have to keep playing that way, and we’ll have a good season.”
A good season would also translate into even more recruiting interest too, Barrett said.
“He’s a very talented young man,” the coach said. “He’s always got a smile on his face, and he does a great job getting after it academically and in the weight room.
“The more successful we are, the more he’ll get recruited … he’s not the biggest kid, but he’s well built and he’s strong. He’s not going to disappoint.”