CRAWFORDSVILLE - They are so far apart in so many ways.
Each plays for a bitter rival of the other. One is on a team that has two losses while another has just two victories.
Yet together Wabash senior Austin Hodges and DePauw senior Cody Crook share two things in common. For one, their senior season's were not what they might have expected.
"If I didn't tell you there was any disappointment I would be lying," said Little Giants defensive back Hodges, who was on a team expected to be in the thick of the Division III playoff race and contending for the North Coast Athletic conference championship.
Wabash will likely be left with either in a week after an surprise loss to Oberlein made both possibilities extremely unlikely. For Crook at DePauw, 2012 has been a season of adjustment and change following the mid-season dismissal of head coach Robbie Long.
"There is not too many teams that I know of at least this year that have gone through what we've gone through with losing our coach," said Crook-but there are few teams in the country that will have the chance that he and Hodges will have Saturday.
The 119th annual Battle For The Monon Bell is regarded as the most important game of the season-and a number of cliches have been established along the way to reinforce it. One of those includes the idea that an season filled with losses can be redeemed with a single win over the opponent in the Bell game.
For two teams who had seasons that may not have lived up to the expectations, that thought has become a rallying cry.
"For the seniors on our team this is it, most likely, so this is our last chance to go out with a bang, our last chance to win," said Wabash senior offensive lineman Weston Kitley.
If they can do so at Hollett Little Giant Stadium Saturday afternoon, it would continue their recent success against DePauw. After back-to-back losses in 2007 and 2008 the Little Giants have won the last three Monon Bell games-the last two coming in dominant fashion.
Two seasons ago it was Wabash who jumped on undefeated DePauw early and often in a 47-0 shutout win in Crawfordsville. In 2011 the Little Giants stunned the Tigers by scoring 31 unanswered points in the first half on the way to a 45-7 victory.
"It definitely adds significance to it because our seniors are 3-0 and have a chance to go 4-0 in the bell series," said Wabash junior receiver Andrew Gibson-who could help the Little Giants win four straight bells for the first time since 1979. "That means a lot especially if its their last game and its one of the most important games of the year."
While getting back the Monon Bell might have seemed an obvious pre-season goal of DePauw, it took a back seat early in the season as the team tried to find consistency in a time of change. After dropping the first two games of the year Long was dismissed, according to the school because of "his failure to fully comply with the school’s policies and administrative expectations."
Left to finish the season was defensive coordinator Scott Srnka, who became the interim head coach for the final eight games of the season. He expressed the team's desire to keep pressing on despite the sudden change so early in the season and praised them for staying strong throughout.
"I think they've responded pretty well. They haven't given up, they've worked extremely hard, you know, when something traumatic like that happens to a program," said Srnka. "You go one of two ways and I think they've responded in a good way.
"The unfortunate thing is we've come a long way and they've really battled and we don't have the wins to show for it."
Right now they have just two compared to seven losses, but the Tigers have been more competitive down the stretch. Three mid-season losses to Ohio Wesleyan, Allegheny and Kenyon came by a combined eight points and the team is just two wins removed from a road victory at Wooster.
Another such win on Saturday could change the complexion of a difficult season.
"Every year everyone knows that the season is kinda defined with the Monon Bell game," said offensive lineman Christopher Lamping. "That really defined the season for the winning team and the losing team as well.
"Records they don't come into play too much when everyone steps onto the field on Saturday."
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