When asked about his team’s accomplishments this past season, culminating in a close home loss to Andrean in the Class 2A North Semistate game, Eastside coach Todd Mason still has difficulty with answering.
To him, that game meant so much – part missed opportunity, part the final contest with a roster that helped the program reach uncharted territory.
“It’s hard for me to even think about it yet,” said a choked-up Mason about that game back in November. “When you sit back and think about the decisions I made in that game…you kick yourself in the butt.
“But what you really think about is what (the players) did. And you can’t put a price on that.”
While the 17-14 defeat to Andrean ended Eastside’s season one game short of Lucas Oil Stadium, the 13-1 campaign led by Coach Mason reached uncharted territory for a program that just two years ago won its first-ever sectional title.
For his success at building Eastside into a 2A power, and this season in particular, Coach Todd Mason is the Outside the Huddle 2021 Football Coach of the Year presented by Hupe Insurance.
It can be difficult for coaches to talk about their own success. Mason’s “five-year plan” that he put together when the outgoing senior class was in 8th grade was executed with stunning success. Eastside has gone from a Northeast Corner Conference backwater to one of the top programs in the entire league in a few short years.
“When I came in freshman year, that’s when I was first introduced to the term ‘all in’ in my class,” senior Laban Davis said. “We came through JV and got onto varsity as sophomores and continued to develop.
“This year was all that we wanted to achieve, except just one game short.”
For Mason, this year’s squad was special from the beginning. He saw in the Class of 2022 the opportunity to build them up from within and achieve what had never been in Butler – postseason titles. It began in 2019 with the program’s first-ever sectional title, but this year, an undefeated record through the first 13 games, conference and sectional championships, a first-ever regional crown…it was all that was set in motion five years before.
But as it often does for coaches, the losses stick longer than the wins. Eastside dug itself a hole against Andrean in the semistate game before storming back in the second half. The Blazers simply ran out of time.
Yet Mason’s achievements are still plentiful. He is quick to say the Coach of the Year honor should be a staff honor, as it was his assistants that were the catalyst to Eastside’s rise.
“The big hurdle you need to jump with a program is getting the kids to believe that you can achieve things that have never been achieved here,” Mason said. “That was a constant message from my staff to our players. There was no reason why we couldn’t do what we did. Just because it had never been done didn’t mean we couldn’t.
“Our guys bought into that. Good players and good coaches equals coach of the year.”