This time 13 is lucky. And good. Very good. In 1996 – 13 years ago – the Anna High School football program
consisted of four guys sitting around a Shelby County home talking
about what it would be like to go to Friday night games instead of well
– sitting around a Shelby County home talking about it. Talk about progression. The Rockets have arrived.
This time 13 is lucky. And good. Very good.
In 1996 – 13 years ago – the Anna High School football program consisted of four guys sitting around a Shelby County home talking about what it would be like to go to Friday night games instead of well – sitting around a Shelby County home talking about it.
Talk about progression.
Friday night, Anna earned respect, arrived as a program and locked up the right to host the school’s first ever playoff game next week with a 16-6 win over two-time defending state champion Marion Local. The Rockets, ranked No. 5 in the Division V ONN/Ohio High Power Poll, finish the season 9-1 and second in the MAC at 7-1 behind D-IV power Coldwater. Its Anna’s highest finish ever in the state’s toughest small school league. The last two years the Rockets were fourth.
There was talk before about how Anna had turned the corner in the MAC. Now there’s proof.
“This is arguably as big (a win) as any one (we’ve ever had),” Anna head coach Bryan Rioch said. “This is big. This is as big as anything else.”
“This is a huge win for this program,” junior quarterback Wes Hunsucker said. “This is a great Marion team. They’ve been good year in and year out. They’re two-time defending state champions.”
Anna’s been in the post season itself, but this time the buzz is different. This time there’s legitimacy to the ticket.
Despite being a program in its still relative infancy, the Rockets own seven playoff berths in nine seasons of varsity football. Impressive? Yes. Their postseason record? No.
Anna is 1-6 in its previous six trips to Week 11 and beyond and has been outscored an average of 39-16 in the losses.
The Rockets fizzle out in the spotlight.
When that first foursome met at Greg Barhorst’s home this is what they had in mind.
Anna is a legitimate threat to win a Division V state title.
Friday marked the third straight season in which Anna beat a defending state champion, but this victory carries more weight than wins over St. Henry in 2007 and Delphos St. John’s in 2006. The Flyers, 8-2 and No. 4 in the D-V Power Poll, are a legitimate threat themselves for a third straight state title.
Potentially six schools from the 10-team conference could reach the postseason pending weekend outcomes.
And that’s why this team, this year is a statement maker.
Anna’s always been good at football. They’ve just never been this complete, confident and capable.
In its first year of existence (1998) Anna’s football program fielded a junior high and reserve team (made up of freshmen and sophomores). The JV squad, with 35 kids, finished 2-7-1 and played all its games on the road. Anna didn’t have a home field.
In 1999, the final tune up year, the Rockets went 10-0 with two wins against varsity teams.
Beginning with their first varsity season in 2000, which began with a win over MAC member New Bremen in overtime in the opener, Anna strung together an impressive six straight playoff appearances. The Rockets were an independent the first year before joining the Cross County Conference in 2001. Although the Rockets won two league titles and made the playoffs all five years they played in the CCC, they were ill prepared come the playoffs.
In 2006 Anna joined the MAC for football only.
“When we started this nine years ago we couldn’t put our pads on,” Rioch said. “Obviously we got into this league to do something once we got in the playoffs, not just to get in. That’s the whole purpose of getting in here. You look at this league and it’s developing state champions left and right.”
The MAC might have just produced another.
“You need some luck and to stay away from injuries, but we felt we had a chance,” Rioch said. “When we started camp July 29th at Ohio Northern we thought we had the opportunity to be this good.”
Said Hunsucker: “We’re very confident. Just making the playoffs isn’t enough.”