INDIANAPOLIS -- Coach Vince Lorenzano speaks with clarity and emphasis when he discusses what impresses him about his 2011 Indianapolis Bishop Chatard team and the Trojan squads that came before it.
It's the sense of togetherness and unselfishness.
"Our kids are family kids. That's just the way it is," Lorenzano said. "They don't ask for anything. Chatard kids never ask for anything. They never say, 'Play me.' They never say, 'I should throw the ball.' Or 'I should run the ball.' Or 'I should get the ball for touchdowns.' They don't say that. They never have.
"Since I've been here, that's the quality there's always been with the Chatard kid -- the fact that they never want something for themselves. … It's sorta cool. In the entitlement society we live in, where everybody thinks they're owed something, our kids just never do that."
That attitude seems to work quite well for the Trojans, 10-2 this season and fresh off a Class 3A Sectional championship. They already own more state titles than any football team in Indiana and are halfway to adding their 11th this year. Chatard and Indiana Creek (8-4) will meet in the playoffs' regional round on Friday.
Besides the selfless approach, the Trojans have something else going for them, according to Lorenzano.
"I think what we are is what we've been all season: a team that just makes plays," he said.
Never was that more evident than in Chatard's 34-13 victory over Indianapolis Brebeuf Jesuit in the sectional final. By Chatard's standards, the running game was struggling. Standout Ryan Kleinschmidt wound up with 105 yards but needed 27 carries to get it.
So quarterback Max VanVliet went to the air and connected on a pair of touchdown passes to Aaron Hepp for 15 and 54 yards. VanVliet ran 43 yards for another touchdown. Hepp returned an interception 65 yards for a score, and Rob Dury took another interception 47 yards for a touchdown.
The run game, a staple in Chatard's attack, continues to undergo work.
"We get better at times, then we drop off and then we get better … peaks and valleys," Lorenzano said. "A lot depends on the defensive scheme. They (Brebeuf) were running eight and nine in the box, so it's going to be tough to run."
Kleinschmidt came into the 2011 season wearing a target after rushing for 1,908 yards and 31 touchdowns last year as the Trojans marched to the state title. This year, with so much attention from defenses, his numbers are slightly down -- 1,354 yards and 11 touchdowns.
"We're not picking up players that come through untouched," Lorenzano said. "And (against Brebeuf) we weren't sustaining at times. We're still working on it. We're a team in progress."
VanVliet's arm provides an alternative when the run game bogs down. Lorenzano says his quarterback is "a great story," having come back from knee ligament surgery each of the past two years. This is VanVliet's first season as a fulltime starter at quarterback and he has passed for 1,903 yards and 23 touchdowns with just seven interceptions.
"He epitomizes this team a bit," Lorenzano said. "Not so much like a hero or a superstar kind of thing, but just guys that just go play and do the best they can."
Ask VanVliet to describe his development at quarterback and he thoughtfully considers the question. "I've definitely noticed a rise in comfort at the spot, just through experience," he said.
Lorenzano, even when he was planning in the offseason, figured VanVliet's passing could inject a nice mix for a Chatard offense known for its stout rushing attack.
"We knew coming in that might be a piece," Lorenzano said. "We still want to run the ball. That's the goal. But this (Brebeuf game) is the kind of game that sends a message to another team that if you want to stack the box, we will continue to throw at you."
Chatard is No. 1 in Class 3A in the Sagarin Ratings. The Trojans are rated No. 17 overall by Sagarin and are one of only five non-Class 5A teams in the top 20. Chatard's only losses this season were to Indianapolis Cathedral (21-14) and Fort Wayne Dwenger (24-14), who were the finalists in the Class 4A state championship game in 2010.
Chatard relies on its defense, which suffered heavy graduation losses yet has yielded a total of just 13 points in three postseason games. The Trojans have scored 106.
This week, the Trojans take on an Indian Creek team they defeated 21-3 in last year's semistate round. If the Trojans win Friday and then twice more, they will claim back-to-back state titles -- as they've done four times before in their storied history.
VanVliet and his teammates won't allow themselves to plan that far ahead.
"I don't think the mindset is back to back," the quarterback said. "We're just taking it week by week, day by day. We're just trying to get better."
OTHER TOP REGIONAL GAMES …
In Class 5A: Carmel, No. 1 overall in the Sagarin Ratings, visits Ben Davis. Can the Greyhounds (11-1) ratchet up the intensity again following last week's emotional 34-30 victory over No. 2 Warren Central? Coach Mike Kirschner's Ben Davis team (10-2), coming off a 64-41 win over Avon, is a formidable group with plenty of experience against the best. The Giants' only losses were to Warren Central (27-21 on Sept. 9) and Carmel (20-10 on Oct. 14).
In Class 4A: Indianapolis Cathedral continues its push to win its fourth state title in six years. The Irish (9-3) will visit Pendleton Heights (11-1). The teams last met in 2010 regional play, with Cathedral winning 56-24.
In Class 2A: Bremen and Wheeler match up in a battle of 12-0 teams in the northern sector of the state. South Putnam (10-2) is at Guerin Catholic (9-3) in central Indiana. South Putnam and Guerin advanced by surprising unbeaten teams in North Putnam and Shenandoah, respectively.
In Class A:Can any team derail Lafayette Central Catholic (12-0) in its bid to win a third consecutive state championship? Friday, South Newton (11-1) gets a chance at home. Central Catholic won its three sectional games by scores of 47-6, 56-6 and 69-8. In a Saturday game, unbeaten Linton-Stockton plays host to Milan, which has lost just once. Linton-Stockton defeated its three sectional opponents by a cumulative 156-15. At Sheridan, Coach Bud Wright's Blackhawks (9-3) will meet Adams Central (7-5) on Friday. Wright became the winningest football coach in Indiana high school history this season and is seeking his 10th state title.