By Beau Wicker
P-T photo | Steve Summers
Winamac’s football team won its first sectional title in 12 years this fall.
The Warriors were able to do so because of players like Brandon Dickson stepping up.
Dickson, a 5-foot-9, 175-pound senior, finished as the Warriors’ highest-rated defender according to the coaches’ ranking system. The second-year starting middle linebacker finished with 72 tackles, 60 assisted tackles, nine tackles for a loss, three fumble recoveries and an interception.
“He’s undersized. He’s not the most gifted athlete we’ve ever had on the football team,” Winamac coach Tim Roth said. “But he plays with a lot of heart and a lot of passion. You can’t measure that until they get on the field and perform that way. He’s a smart kid and very coachable. What he lacks physically he makes up for mentally. The last two years he’s been totally undersized but has done a great job for us.”
The Warriors (9-4) finished with a flourish this season to win the sectional title. They stopped Hammond Noll and Class A No. 8 West Central in back-to-back weeks to win the championship.
The win over rival West Central was a stunner. The Trojans were coming off a 43-3 demolishing of No. 3 Whiting and had defeated Winamac 49-7 just six weeks earlier. But the Warriors were able to totally turn the tables on them in a 49-13 romp to take home the sectional hardware.
“We just did our job,” Dickson said. “We played assignment football and filled the holes we were supposed to. Every man did his job. We forced them to the outside, and our outside guys made the plays.”
The Warriors were defeated by Lafayette Central Catholic 49-14 in a regional game. The Knights went on to win their fourth straight state title and will move up to Class 2A next season because of the IHSAA’s new success factor.
“We did good for quite awhile,” Dickson said. “In the first-half turnovers killed us and we got our heads down and couldn’t get back up, and they pulled away. We played a strong first quarter and part of the second.”
The Warriors had a lot of underclassmen play a key role in the tournament run, and Dickson expects them to be strong again next season.
“Next year we’ll be really strong. We’re not losing that many starters,” he said.
The Warriors played inspired football down the stretch of the season, in large part because they were playing for Cooper Fulmer, the 6-year-old younger brother of senior lineman Gavin Fulmer, who was diagnosed with leukemia the week of the senior night game against Frontier.
The Warriors shaved their heads and wore bracelets with the phrase “#Coopstrong” to show support for Cooper, and they went on to win an improbable sectional title for him.
“I think that really pulled us together as a team. We were all fighting for a common goal,” Dickson said.
Dickson added that he, Cooper and Gavin just hung out on Monday.
“He’s doing really good right now. Me and his brother are really good friends,” Dickson said. “He just wanted to hang out with me and his brother. We were skinning animals we caught and he wanted to hang out with us.”
Roth believes Cooper will beat his cancer.
“The prognosis is very good. Things are looking on the up and up,” he said. “He still has a lot of uphill battles yet to climb. He just has to stay positive and do the best he can.”
Just like he inspired the Warriors to do.
The following is a question-and-answer session with Dickson.
Q. Of the sports you play, which is your favorite? Why?
A. Football. It is more than just a sport. It starts off as a sport, but by the end of your four years it turns into a brotherhood and a family with memories that last forever.
Q. Do you have any family members who played sports?
A. My sister [Baleigh] ran cross country and is on Olivet’s team. My mom [Kim] played softball and my dad [Rick] wrestled and played football.
Q. Who do you consider your biggest role model? Why?
A. My biggest role model in sports came from Matt Kolish. He was a senior and I was a freshman and he played with so much heart that I wanted to do the same.
Q. What experiences have you had in sports have made you the athlete you are today?
A. Going against high-quality linemen and running backs in practice has helped improve my skills.
Q. What is something that not everyone knows about you?
A. I like to read Western books and books about wildlife.
Q. What is your favorite memory of playing sports at your school?
A. My favorite will always be the sectional championship this year. After the game the four captains were the last to leave the field with Coach Roth and it symbolized all we had worked for.
Q. What’s your favorite music, movie, TV show, etc.?
A. Music: country. Artist: Jason Aldean. Movie: Fast and Furious. TV: NCIS. Book: Francis Tucket by Gary Paulsen. Team: Colts.
Q. Who is the best athlete in your respective sport you’ve ever gone up against?
A. Michael Hamilton of West Central. He is slick and quick. He knows how to find holes and break tackles. He killed us in our first game, but we stopped him in the sectional final game.
Q. What are your goals for your future? Do you plan on attending college?
A. I have applied to Purdue and plan on going into mechanical engineering.
Each week during the school year the Pharos-Tribune recognizes an athlete from one of five area high schools. The recipients are selected by each school’s athletic department.