Max Mullis has fond memories of Lucas Oil Stadium.
As an eighth grader in 2018, he served a ball boy when West Lafayette came from behind in the closing minute to down defending champion Evansville Memorial, 47-42, for the Class 3A state title.
"One thing that I remember from that team is that they were the toughest and most disciplined guys on the field," Mullis recalled. "I also remember how confident they were, especially during the (state) tournament."
Then, back on August 19, the 6-foot, 190-pound senior quarterback returned to the Circle City and completed 12-of-19 passes for 103 yards with a touchdown. He also ran 10 times for 126 yards with three scores to help the Red Devils to a 27-14 victory over rival Harrison (West Lafayette) in the Horseshoe Classic.
"First of all, our coaches put us in the best position to be successful," Mullis said. "Also, my teammates were very good at completing their assignments and making plays."
Now, he would love nothing more than to come back to the home of the Indianapolis Colts again on Thanksgiving weekend to close out his high school career on the big stage.
Since he first started playing football back in kindergarten, he has learned the game has its share of ups and downs.
"The people that have helped guide me throughout my football career the most are my dad and (West Lafayette) Coach (Shane) Fry," explained Mullis. "They have taught me to be prepared and not let my emotions get too high or too low during a game. I focus on going play to play and not letting anything negatively affect my performance."
After getting limited action as a freshman (14-of-25 for 223 yards with a touchdown), Mullis saw some time in the backfield in 2020 where he ran 84 times for 511 yards with 11 touchdowns.
Last fall, he then took over the controls and guided the Red Devils to a 9-1 mark, completing 138-of-206 passes for 1,767 yards with 29 touchdowns and five interceptions. He also carried the ball 64 times for 508 yards with 10 scores.
"Max is a great leader, a dynamic athlete, and an outstanding quarterback," said West Lafayette head coach Shane Fry. "He has worked extremely hard over the last three years to become stronger and a better quarterback. In his sophomore and junior years, he was more of a running threat than anything else at the quarterback position. Thanks to his hard work and dedication in the off-season, he has become a great passer this season.
"He can make all the throws. He has great arm strength and accuracy and is a true dual-threat quarterback.
After losing to eventual Class 3A state runner-up Brebeuf Jesuit in last year's sectional opener, Mullis knew he had to make some improvements coming into 2022.
The numbers speak for themselves as he is 146-of-224 for 2,080 yards with 26 touchdowns and five interceptions. He has also run 75 times for 761 yards with 18 scores.
"The biggest area of my game I've focused on this year was reading defenses and gaining confidence in my arm," Mullis said. "A lot of that credit goes to Coach Fry. I wouldn't be the player I am today without him.
"He knows so much about the game and teaches me something new every day. He expects perfection and that has had a positive impact on me on and off the field."
The 10th-year West Lafayette boss also has nothing but praise for his talented signal caller.
"As good of a player as Max is, he is an even better person," Fry said. "I have known Max since elementary school, and he is a joy to work with every day. He is getting it done off the field as well with a 3.5 grade-point average in the classroom."
Some other difference makers on the gridiron include senior offensive lineman-linebacker Matthew Richardson (107 tackles with 11 for loss, four interceptions, and two fumble recoveries), senior lineman Luke Amann, senior wide receiver-defensive back Wyatt Curl (nine receptions for 267 yards with three touchdowns, 48 tackles, and four interceptions), and sophomore running back Dawson Martin (147 carries for 867 yards with 14 touchdowns).
"Everyone has played well to this point," Mullis said. "Even though our team lost some key players to injuries, others have stepped up and produced. We came into this season with high expectations, especially with 14 seniors on this team."
Before even thinking about heading back to Indianapolis, though, the top-ranked Red Devils (11-0) have to first take care of business on the road against No. 5 Hanover Central (11-0) on November 4 in the Class 3A Sectional 25 finale.
"We love to play football and winning means we get to keep playing together as a team," Mullis said. "We want to leave our mark on the West Lafayette football program."