KOKOMO -- It was a mess, a smoldering dumpster fire.
Two years ago, when Phil Mason took over the Michigan City football program, the Wolves were the dregs of the Duneland Athletic Conference. Postseason aspirations were a pipe dream. Apathy was rampant, attitudes awful, discipline non-existent.
Boy, that all changed quickly, didn't they?
"For us to be the only (Michigan City) team to come this far, to win anything really, there's nothing to be mad about," Wolves quarterback Michael McCullough said after Friday's Class 5A semistate loss to Kokomo. "We were one game away from the big house."
City won its first sectional and regional titles in the 24-year history of the school. Its nine victories also represent the most in a single season.
"It's a credit to everything we've been working hard to do with the kids," coach Phil Mason said. "I'm sure there will be critics out there who will be very disappointed. That's fine, whatever. We're trying to make the kids understand they don't have to be disappointed. They should be proud of what they accomplished."
Mason's 16 Ws make him the winningest coach all-time, which says as much about what he and his staff have accomplished as it does about the moribund state of affairs he assumed.
"We completely knew, we understood coming in, when you've got a program that doesn't have success over a lot of years, everything's based on individualism," he said. "I feel like we're taking leaps and bounds with that. We don't have that in this program anymore."
It's been a special few weeks in Michigan City, which has been starved for a winner for years pre-dating the 'new' high school. The team captured their hearts, as evidenced by the following that made the long drive to Concord and the longer drive to Kokomo. At a time when many a community's ties to its high school aren't as strong, it was refreshing to see.
"It would have been fantastic," Mason said of the prospect of going to state, "for everybody involved. I've been in that barn. It's fun."