By JOEL COLEMAN
ACKERMAN – In just a year’s time, the Ackerman Indians have gone from the depths of the valley to the brink of the Class 2A, Region 2 mountaintop.
After a sluggish start Friday night, Ackerman regrouped and defeated J.Z. George 35-0, guaranteeing the Indians a first-round home playoff game and setting up a showdown against Hamilton next week that will determine the district champion.
For a team that finished with a 1-10 overall record a season ago, it’s all quite the dramatic turn of events for Ackerman and head coach Adam Dillinger.
Yet the Indians leader says no one is celebrating anything just yet.
“We can reflect on everything after the season,” said Dillinger. “We’re going to try to win the division next week and then take a week of the playoffs at the time and try to get better. At the end, we can reflect and pat ourselves on the back, but we’ve still got a lot of work to do right now.”
Ackerman (7-3 overall, 4-0 in Region 2-2A) was able to assure itself of at least the No. 2 seed from the division, despite a less-than-stellar beginning Friday against J.Z. George (0-10 overall, 0-4 in Region 2-2A).
The Indians fumbled inside the Jaguars’ 5-yard line on the opening possession of the contest and, despite recording a safety on J.Z. George’s ensuing drive, raised a few red flags for Dillinger.
“We didn’t come out and play like we should have,” said Dillinger. “Turning the ball over, we can’t do that. We’ve got to play cleaner than that.
“I don’t think we came out with as much effort as we needed to and we’ve got to fix that.”
Ackerman junior fullback/defensive lineman Alex Foust said the Indians recognized they weren’t performing up to expectations, but vowed his team would work to correct the miscues.
“We came into this game pretty lazy,” said Foust. “We had some mistakes and penalties, but we’re going to clean that up.”
The Indians righted their ship late in the first quarter and into the second quarter.
Sporting its 2-0 lead, Ackerman found the end zone for the first time on a Dakota Brasher 1-yard run with 4:48 remaining in the opening period.
The Indians scored three more times in the second quarter, stretching their lead to 29-0 courtesy of two Brasher touchdown passes – one to Quinton Lane and one to Lavonte Miller – and a K.J. Woods short-yardage scoring run.
Dillinger was proud Ackerman gave itself some breathing room prior to halftime.
“We were glad to see that and go ahead and get a comfortable lead,” said Dillinger. “(Ackerman punter Roman Ramirez) had a couple of really good pooch kicks and one of them set up a turnover and that helped us out a bunch. We were able to stretch things out right before the half and that was big.”
The Indians capped the night’s scoring late in the fourth quarter on a 30-yard run by Brody Hines.
When time expired, Ackerman could officially set its sights on next week’s showdown on the road against Hamilton, a squad that beat East Webster 52-7 on Friday.
“They’re beatable,” said Foust of Hamilton. “They are very good, but they’re very beatable.
“We’re in a position where we are mentally ready. We’ve just got to get our stuff together and go play them.”
Dillinger is looking forward to the challenge and opportunity that awaits his Indians in Hamilton.
“It’s time now,” said Dillinger. “We’ve got to get ready and try to win it. There’s always a big difference between being No. 1 and No. 2 (in the division). We need to go and do what we can to try and finish first.
“You want to win all the championships you can and the region is the first one.”