TIPTON | Apparently, Rensselaer's going to have to keep pounding on the semistate door before the Bombers can knock it down.
For the third time in five years, Rensselaer got within one game of the state finals, and for the third time in five years, the Bombers were emphatically turned away.
"That seems to be the formula for us," said Rensselaer coach Chris Meeks, who had four teams lose in the regional before they were able to break through in 2008. "It takes a few losses for us to get there. We're going to work hard to get there. There's no doubt in my mind we're going to be back next year. It's our goal to get back and go beyond next year."
Rensselaer's skill players, whose talents weren't too evident in Friday's shutout loss, are largely juniors.
"(Tipton) had a go-to player," Meeks said of quarterback Austin Hooker, a 220-pound battering ram. "We're looking for a go-to player. We didn't make the plays we needed to. We had open passes. We had a lot of drops."
The Bombers will return with high expectations in 2014, something the current senior group didn't have when they started out.
"I remember when we came into high school, after the seniors almost won semistate," senior Beau Boswell said. "Everybody thought Rensselaer football was going to be nothing after that. We loved that we were the underdog. We worked hard to try meet those standards."
Winning a sectional and a regional, I'd say they came pretty close.
"It's a group that's come a long way," Meeks said. "They made the most of their talents, above and beyond. They can be proud of what they've done for Rensselaer football."
That provided a little solace for Boswell, standing about 20 yards from a Tipton victory celebration.
"It's tough right now, especially getting this far, knowing it could've been us going to Indy and it's not," said Boswell, who has likely played his last football game. "But I don't want one less to affect our season. We had a great season. They just got the best of us. It hasn't hit me right now, but it will pretty soon."
As for the legacy of Rensselaer's senior class, which numbered 11, it will be one of leadership.
"It's a big thing we try to instill," Boswell said. "This was one of the best classes to ever come through Rensselaer as far as leadership. We had great team chemistry as well. They're going to be good (next year). They've got some real quick athletes. They just need to get in the weight room. Like the coaches say, you can't control how big you are, but you can control how big you get."
Trevor Hill, Rylan Arihood, Dylan Wright and Ab Kiger will comprise a solid core of skill players on offense in 2014. The zero under the guest side on the Tipton scoreboard should provide them with plenty of motivation.
"We've got a lot of kids who were playing their first full season of varsity football," Meeks said. "There's no doubt in mind they're going to step up and play at a higher level next year."