“When you go through those first two years and I’m sure the kids were wanting to quit and I was probably wanting to quit too,” Knepp said. “It’s difficult and I tell coaches this that are playing young players — when you get to Christmas time in a season and you’re playing young players, they’ve been beat up mentally and physically. The players just don’t really know if this is all worth it and I’m sure coaches go through the same thing. You have a point where you’re thinking, ‘Man, this is frustrating, because you’re competitive and you want to win.’ I kept telling this senior group to stay focused on the big picture.”
That big picture may have seemed miles away, but in the 2011-12 season — the sophomore season for the four seniors — everything started to come together with two huge victories. The Cougars defeated Bloomfield 38-30 on Jan. 24, 2012 after losing 69-23 the season before. Less than a month later, the Cougars upset Loogootee in the sectional semifinals, 35-30. Their season ended the next night in the sectional final against Barr-Reeve, but the seeds of confidence were starting to bloom.
“We were not supposed to beat Bloomfield and we hadn’t beaten Bloomfield in several years,” Knepp said. “We picked up a win and did so, convincingly. We didn’t just win it at the end on a last second shot. We led the majority of the game. When we did that, those sophomores figured out that we can play and we followed that up by beating Loogootee in the sectional. Loogootee had beaten us by 29 in the regular season in November. We came in with a game plan and a renewed confidence. I told (North Daviess boys coach) Brent Dalrymple, ‘We’re getting this experience a year early.’ From that point on we have believed we could win any game we played.”