The Mid-Eastern Conference Championship for Indiana high school football was created in 2018 after Monroe Central, Shenandoah, Eastern Hancock and Wes-Del, the only four teams in the Conference with football teams, unified to form a football conference.
In 2018, Shenandoah won. Monroe Central was runner-up.
In 2019, Eastern Hancock won. Monroe Central was runner-up.
Now in 2020, Monroe Central (6-1) won its first MEC title in school history, the year the football season was in question due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Even though a couple of teammates were pessimistic about a season that might not happen, senior lineman, Khaner Phillips remained an optimist about the season and a championship.
“It’s amazing,” Phillips said. “It almost gets me emotional just because of how much we worked for it, and if it would have been taken away it would have been devastating to me. We all just kept our heads up and worked through it.
Fast forward to last night, the Golden Bears were able to cap off an undefeated conference run with a 28-7 win over Shenandoah (6-3) and can now call themselves champions.
“In 2016, in what might be disputed as our greatest team ever,” Monroe Central head coach John Hochstetler said, “our wins didn’t create a conference championship. Then Shenandoah handled us two years ago, Eastern Hancock last year. We’ve been frustrated with that.”
Last night’s game between the Golden Bears and Raiders started off in a defensive battle. Both teams were unable to get anything going on their first couple of possessions.
Monroe Central was able to capitalize on the first mistake Shenandoah made to get on the board first.
At the three-minute mark of the first quarter, Monroe Central’s possession ended in a punt after a 10 and 7-yard sack from the Shenandoah defense. They were able to extend their drive after a fumble recovery following a muffed catch from the Raider returner at the Shenandoah 15 yard line.
Three plays later and junior running back Joel Kennedy was able to run the ball into the endzone from one yard out.
The run attack continued to be a success for the Golden Bears in the second quarter, with junior quarterback Jackson Ullom scoring on a quarterback keeper for 15 yards with 7:28 left in the first half to put his team up by two scores.
Shenandoah was able to get onto the scoreboard right before halftime on an 11 yard receiving touchdown to the back of the endzone by senior running back Cole Hughe. They went into the break down 14-7.
The Golden Bears shut down any hope of a Raiders’ comeback, preventing Shenandoah from scoring again while putting up two more touchdowns themselves to guarantee the championship.
“Bobby Knight said winning the Big Ten is bigger than the national championship, so it was big for us to win this conference tonight,” Coach Hochstetler said.
On defense, Phillips and senior lineman Max Bradley combined for 14 tackles.
“This championship means everything to us seniors, the juniors and all the coaches,” Bradley said. “But what it really means is this is for all the seniors on that fence the past two years on senior night, not having the chance to walk off the field with the conference after losing to Shenandoah and Eastern Hancock. This is our way to repay them for all the hard work they’ve done to set this program up for us. It’s more for them than for us.”
The Golden Bears finished with 182 rushing yards and three touchdowns, as opposed to 78 yards and one touchdown through the air.
Monroe Central improved to 6-1 and is now on a four-game winning streak going into sectional play. They will take on the Taylor Titans (1-8) on the road in the first round of 1A Sectional 43. Shenandoah’s four-game winning streak ends with last night’s loss and they will travel to Eastern Hancock next week for the first round of 2A Sectional 38. Both games have 7 p.m. start times.
Whether or not Monroe Central gets past Taylor and future opponents on the road to a sectional title, one thing is for certain: a championship is coming home to Parker City.