Josh Arntz has developed a flair for the dramatic on the gridiron.
Back on October 14, the 5-foot-8, 180-pound senior scored a touchdown in the final minute as Columbia City rallied from a 24-12 deficit to post a 25-14 win over No. 4 (Class 3A) Norwell to capture the Northeast 8 Conference championship.
Arntz came through once again a week later (October 28) in the Class 4A Sectional 19 opener at Fort Wayne Wayne by scoring from two yards out with 12 seconds left to lift the Eagles to a 41-36 victory.
Then, just for good measure this past Friday (November 4), he provided a key block at the end of regulation. This led directly to a blocked field goal attempt at the end of regulation in Columbia City's 27-21 overtime win over Leo for its first sectional crown since 1993.
"This team has heart," explained Arntz. "Everyone feels it on the sideline or field when a big play happens because the whole team reacts and goes crazy. The atmosphere of the community in the stands is huge too. We knew those big plays were there and we're ready for them, but it didn't take away any of the emotions felt when they happened."
Arntz hopes to deliver another award-winning performance this Friday (November 11) when the No. 9 Eagles (11-1) host No. 7 Kokomo (11-1) for a Class 4A regional championship.
The winner moves on to meet No. 6 New Prairie (11-1) or defending state runner-up Northridge (8-4) in the northern semistate final on November 18.
Since he started participating in flag football when he was five years old, Arntz has always had a love and passion for the game.
"I personally just go out there to give it my all," Arntz said. "I've practiced and played with full effort my entire life and that's the only thing I can think of that allows for my play this season. It's heart, which has become a staple of this team, and effort that allows for the best to come out of any player. That's all I rely on when I'm on the field. Obviously, the technique of each position and the coaching that comes along with it is huge but turning that coaching into good play is all about effort and heart."
Whether he is carrying the football or running down opponents from his linebacker spot, Arntz has proven to be a difference maker.
In addition to carrying the ball 105 times for 613 yards with 10 touchdowns, he also has two receptions for 24 yards, 77 tackles with 13 for loss, three quarterback sacks, two fumble recoveries, and an interception.
He has also seen the program make great strides from last year (5-6 in 2021) to now.
"The culture of the football team has been building for the last few years, and really came together this year with this group of kids," explained Arntz. "(Columbia City) Coach (Brett) Fox breeds a culture of sacrificing for your brothers on the field and doing your job, trusting that the guy next to you is doing his.
"We work hard for each other, play hard for each other, celebrate together, struggle together, and fix issues together. That togetherness brings about energy that the whole team feels and understands, and that is huge for these big games."
Having worked with Arntz over the past four years, Fox has seen him grow and mature both on and off the field.
"Josh Arntz is an incredible player for us here at Columbia City," explained Fox. "He leads his teammates on the field, in the classroom, and within the halls of the high school. Josh is a great student and an even better leader at school. If you want to know what kind of teammate Josh is, then look at our blocked field goal on the very last play of regulation during the sectional championship game (Leo).
"Josh exemplified his leadership skills by simply doing what he was asked to do and not worrying about being the 'playmaker' that everyone will remember when he blocked Leo's wing down, opening up the lane for Stratton Fuller to block Leo's game-winning field goal attempt. Josh's job was to take care of the wing and he did it. That's what leaders do. That's what Josh Arntz does. He always steps up for us and does his job."
In addition to Coach Fox, Arntz credits several others with his progression.
"When I first started playing, my biggest influence was my dad because he taught me everything to be a good flag (football) player even though he never played himself," Arntz said. "He focused on me learning the techniques of every position and it helped me become very well-rounded. It also showed me the importance of the little things in technique that matter so much.
"Ever since I started tackle football at the age of nine, my biggest influence has been my defensive coordinator. From Coach Harmon in little league to Coach (Jeff) Clark now, they always bring out great energy in the group I'm with, and alongside that great focus and practice. That combination has always helped me improve and puts me and the defense in the best position to execute."
Arntz also realizes he is just a small part of his club's success.
"This senior class is full of guys playing for each other," Arntz pointed out. "It's a great group of guys that have all been playing together for a long time and it shows. Everyone has been playing amazing; especially (linebacker) Dominic Chacon on defense, leading the team with tackles (96). The duo of (quarterback) Colten Pieper (79-of-160 for 1,332 yards with 20 touchdowns) and (wide receiver) Stratton Fuller (44 catches for 696 yards with 12 touchdowns) is also great. The entire running back corps has a bunch of different styles that have performed and worked well together in each game. Most of our offensive and defensive lines are seniors that have been playing well too."
Being one of eight teams remaining in Class 4A is something many people didn't think was possible for Arntz and company.
However, they proved them wrong.
"A regional title would be an incredible accomplishment for this team," Arntz said. "We were predicted to not even make it out of the lower half of the NE8 conference, let alone anywhere in playoffs. What has led to this team's success is heart and how we play as one. Those are our keys for every victory this year, and it will remain that way for as long as we can make it."