INDIANAPOLIS — It's no piece of cake, this state championship stuff.
Well, unless you're one of the big Indy metro powers, which have one every big school title dating back to 2000.
For Northwest Indiana, it seems to be getting tougher and tougher. Our 6As are light years away from the Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference, whose representative, Ben Davis, obliterated Region nemesis Penn in Saturday's finale at Lucas Oil Stadium. There seemed to be a glimmer of hope this season when Valpo knocked off the Kingsmen in the season opener, only to fall in the sectional rematch.
Has the well started to run dry in NWI? Nobody made it to The Luke last year. While three teams reached state in 2014 (Rensselaer, Andrean and LaPorte), when the Bombers were 2A kings, the Niners' 3A crown in '13 broke a Region dry spell dating back to 2005.
"If it was easy, we'd do it every year," Lowell coach Keith Kilmer said after Saturday's 14-7 loss to East Central.
Lowell has become a benchmark for success in our proud little corner of the state, consistently producing contenders. That said, Saturday was the first time RDP was playing for the big trophy since 2009. Its sole title came in 2005. Expectations are great, you want them to be high, yet sometimes they can be unrealistic.
"Sometimes you're a victim of your own success," Kilmer said. "It's hard to get down state, especially out of 4A in the north. It's the magnitude of the game. It's a different mentality. We were on a bus three days in a row. I think East Central being here three years ago helped them. A lot of those guys didn’t play, but they were here, like our '07, '09 teams. You learn every time you come, get a little better every time."
Whiting has had a strong run of late and Michigan City's star appears to be on the rise in 5A, but for the time being, Lowell remains the Region's top program. Its senior class won four sectionals, two regionals and a semistate, falling short of the big prize.
"When they get over the sting of the loss, they'll find a moment to be proud of what they did," Kilmer said. "They're the first Lowell team to win 14 games. They can be disappointed they didn't win the ultimate goal, but I told them, 'don't feel like a failure, don't walk out that door feeling sorry for yourself.' What they did was pretty special."
In the end, the big one remains out of Kilmer's reach and the Region remains title-less for another winter.
"Lowell's a proud football town," he said. "Nobody puts more pressure on me than me. I'll try to enjoy it a week or two and get back to work. The expectation was to prove we could get here. That's the expectation every year. Now it's a different kind of pressure now."
Quarterback Ethan Igras, for one, is hyped about carrying the Lowell banner going forward.
"The thing about the seniors was, they came out to every practice excited. They wanted to be there," Igras said. "They gave it their all every play. That's what I want next year. I can't wait."
Until then, that's all we can do.
Who's got next?