FINAL RECORD: 4-7
+/- FROM 2011: -2 wins
WHAT WENT RIGHT: Quarterback/splitback/defensive back/kick returner/punter Derek Conley mostly stayed healthy, which was a concern at the beginning of the season given his many duties. Conley, a senior, led the Cougars in passing (718 yards, eight touchdowns) and rushing (576 yards, seven touchdowns) and was fourth in tackles (63).
Conley, as a defensive back, was one of two Cougars named to the All-Hoosier Heritage Conference Team. Junior offensive lineman Jacob Mize was also singled out by the HHC coaches for his stellar play.
The Cougars gained possession of the HHC’s traveling trophy with a 42-27 win over Shelbyville in Week 5. G-C lost the old-school helmet to Mt. Vernon in Week 7.
WHAT WENT WRONG: In back-to-back winning seasons of 2010 and 2011, the Cougars relied heavily on defense and special teams, holding opponents to a respectable 18.5 points over 23 games. This season, G-C gave up 32.5 points per game and, in eight outings between a season-opening 40-7 win over New Castle and a 21-14 sectional quarterfinal triumph of Muncie Central, the Cougars allowed 38.5 points per contest.
All seven of the Cougars’ losses were by at least 17 points. Their four wins were over teams with a combined record of 9-31.
The Cougars suffered a host of injuries, including to senior two-way lineman Keifer Honeycutt (shoulder), junior wide receivers/defensive backs Mason Irbe (foot) and Drew Dougherty (knee) and senior outside linebacker Austin Shermer (foot) that caused those young men to miss significant playing time.
On a team already lacking speed, the Cougars suffered a blow when junior burner Brant Boles-Lattimore (8.35 yards per rush, 18.24 yards per reception) did not play the final three games for undisclosed reasons.
2013: The Cougars need to replace Conley at quarterback. His backup, Jimmy Baggott, is also a senior. Sophomore Geordan Stump was the only other quarterback to throw a pass this season.
Around the rest of the lineup, the Cougars will lose most of their playmakers to graduation. In addition to Conley, running backs Josh McDonald and Joe Hoskins and Irbe are also seniors.
If Boles-Lattimore does not return next season, G-C will have only three players in 2013 who have scored an offensive touchdown. Austin Felts, Nick Warren and Blaine Bever scored one touchdown each this season.
Things are better on the offensive line. The Cougars’ entire sectional starting line of Mize, Tim Perry, Tyler Beeson, Logan Addington and Chris Posey are eligible to return next fall.
On defense, sophomore middle linebacker Cameron Nuckols led the Cougars in tackles this season. And Mize and Beeson, both juniors, were starters on the defensive line.
Senior linebackers Hoskins and Wyatt Evans will be missed.
With the Cougars’ offensive line a year older, stronger and presumably faster in 2013, there’s something for G-C to build on.
But, without a player capable of making big plays behind that offensive line — and without a defensive fix — 2013 looks to be another challenging season for the Cougars.
OF NOTE: Rushville is leaving the Hoosier Heritage Conference, but G-C will continue to play the Lions in a non-conference game in the same Week 6 slot. That road game will likely mark the start of the county-wide two-week fall school break, which would continue through G-C home games in Week 7 and Week 8 against Mt. Vernon and New Palestine.
According to available information, G-C and Shelbyville are the only two HHC schools keeping Rushville on their football schedules, which is mostly a product of what dates Rushville was able to keep as it moves into the Eastern Indiana Conference.
New Palestine is picking up Danville, while Mt. Vernon will play Muncie South. Pendleton Heights, Delta and Yorktown are also believed to have added Muncie South for 2013.