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Thirty years ago this past summer, my Decatur Little League Senators were getting ready for the Adams County Little League Championship game. Just before the start of the game I noticed that veteran umpire George Thomas was cajoling my two best players, Guy Lee and Mark Hunter.
“I was just telling them that I’ll be watching them and I won’t put up with any of their antics,” explained Thomas.
Well, naturally, the discussion that followed between me and Thomas … well, Andy Norby had to come out of the scorer’s booth to settle us down.
It seems that the reputation of my leading players was well in place. They played the game hard, and for keeps.
I haven’t seen the Heritage Patriots this year, but I’m sure they’re playing hard and for keeps, and they’ll do that Friday against 3A No.1 Jimtown at the Patriots Field for the sectional championship. On the sideline will be Guy “Tiny” Lee, the defensive coach for the No. 9 Patriots.
“It’s the same thing, they don’t give us a chance. Everyone is picking Jimtown, and that’s fine,” said Lee. “We’re going to play like we always do. We’ve got a great defense planned, the offense is tuned up and ready to go. I believe we’re a little faster and they’re big and strong. I believe we can beat them.”
Defense has been a specialty for Lee, going back to the days when he was an All-NHC defensive lineman for Bellmont and when he excelled on defense in minor league football teams. His crazy mayhem defense keyed the Adams County Patriots to a national title a few years ago in minor league football.
Lee coaches for third-year mentor Dean Lehrman at Heritage. Lehrman is best known for his successful Heritage baseball teams over the years, and now he has his best of three Patriots’ football teams. The Pats are 9-2 and earned a share of the ACAC title with an impressive 56-20 win over Garrett three weeks ago. Only a controversial 13-10 overtime loss at Leo, when the Lions were given an extra play after time had expired in regulation, kept Heritage from an outright title.
Lee had a decorated career as a Minor League and Arena Football League coach, and has been inducted into both the American Football Hall of Fame (2010) and the Minor League Football Hall. He has coached the United States (Amateur) Football team several times as they played games in Europe.
This is Lee’s first try at high school coaching. “I love the kids. It’s good to see football players willing to show up every day, have a good work ethic, and learn the game,” said Lee.
Lee’s defense is led by linebackers Kenny Brandt and Brenton Lockett. “Kenny is the key, the leader of our defense, and both are standout players,” described Lee.
The Patriots’ offense, which has scored 146 points in the past three games, has been impressive. The offensive coordinator is former Heritage and Indiana record-setting runningback Brandon Robinson.
Quarterback Connor Sheehan leads the dual attack, and his best weapon is back Will Knapke. “Will is stupid fast. He plays the slot, tailback, safety. He’s the real deal. The kid can get it done. We run a full scale attack. Brandon mixes it up about 50-50 on run-pass,” described Lee.
Heritage averages almost 40 points a game and allows 11 points a game. Unbeaten Jimtown has slightly better stats. However, Heritage has played six teams with a winning record to the three for the Jimmies. Heritage foes at 61-53 to the 47-68 of Jimtown.
“Both teams have been dominant. It’ll be one of those games where we’ll see who can stop who,” summed up Lee.
As far as the defense that Jimtown will see … that’s hard to say. “I don’t have a base defense. We’ll sometimes be in a 5-2, a 5-3, a 4-4, or a combination. Jimtown will run the ball 95 percent of the time, so we’re going to have eight or nine guys in the box,” promised the coach.
This should be a great 3A war. “It’ll be the best game in the state Friday,” predicts Lee.