BUTLER — Eastside and DeKalb have had a back-and-forth battle in the current boys bowling season.
The two have alternated wins in their five previous meetings, and will be together again at Saturday’s semi-state at Chippewa Bowl in South Bend.
The Blazers have the upper hand at the moment, having defeated the Barons in a stepladder match to win the regional title last week, after DeKalb had done the same to them to win the sectional crown a week earlier.
“It kind of depends on the day,” second-year Eastside coach Brandon DePew said. “The two teams are matched very close together. We look at them as our main competition.
“Because both teams know on any given day they can be the better team, it’s made it a better relationship. You’re rivals, but you don’t hate each other. There’s a little more camaraderie.”
The Blazers and Barons, and the DeKalb girls (also sectional runners-up) will compete for the right to go to the state tournament Saturday.
Several area bowlers will also compete in the singles portion of the tournament. Skyler Plummer of DeKalb and Dominic Weicht of Eastside, who were third and sixth, respectively, at regional, will participate.
The girls singles competition will include regional singles runner-up Jaden Howard of Angola, Madison Flaugh of Garrett (fifth) and Jessica Willavize of East Noble (eighth).
A strong veteran group has helped the Eastside boys team, DePew believes.
“We have a really good core group of five juniors on our roster,” he said. “They’ve been bowling together since middle school. That really helps us because they can relate to each other.”
DePew said the addition of freshman Brian Miller has helped the Blazers take their success to a higher level this year.
“Last year, we made it to regional. This year, we made it to semi-state and won the regional, so that’s pretty cool. I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished,” DePew said.
Out of a 20-team field in the semi-state, 12 qualify for state. DePew feels the Blazers survived the more pressure-packed part of the tournament in the regional, when they had to be in the top three.
“The odds are pretty good you make it to state,” DePew said. “When you get to this level they don’t trim the field down that much.
“It takes the pressure off a little bit. In regional only three went, so that was the harder of the two. Of course, the talent pool will be a little better at semi-state. If we can keep doing what we’re doing, we’ll be all right.”