Mishawaka High School football coach Bart Curtis seemed like an improbable coach of the year candidate midway through the regular season.
"We were 2-3 and things were looking glum," Curtis said. "But we started to jell and got on a hot streak. It was a lot more them than me."
The Caveman (11-4) won nine in a row before losing Cathedral 56-29 in the Class 4A state championship game on Nov. 24. Curtis has been named the Dave Land Coach of the Year. Curtis was shocked by the honor from the Indiana Football Coaches Association.
"It means a great deal because it's voted on by your peers," Curtis said.
Curtis said the state championship run was helped by the fact players got healthy.
"We had a very good quarterback in Sam Schrader and a great group of kids who player their roles," Curtis said.
Three times Mishawaka came from behind during the postseason, including from a 28-7 deficit to South Bend Washington early in the third quarter in the sectional final to win 36-34 in overtime.
"We felt like we were living right," Curtis said.
Mishawaka athletic director Jim Aldrich said Curtis did an outstanding coaching job.
"That team ran into trouble with a number of injuries and concussions," Aldrich said. "They bounced back to make the state final. In every game they just refused to (lose). There were a few good athletes but what they were mostly was a bunch of young men who worked hard to get to that point and they had great leadership from coach Curtis and from his assistant coaches."
Curtis also praised the role his assistant coaches played.
"I have a great coaching staff. This award is not mine it's ours," said Curtis, referring to the players and coaching staff.
Curtis, who completed his fifth season at Mishawaka, previously was a head coach at New Prairie for 11 seasons and Maconaquah and for six.