THE INDIANA FOOTBALL DIGEST'S 2014 HONOR ROLL – STATE FINALS RECAP
BY PAUL CONDRY AND MATT KOPSEA
Ethan Lee's four-yard lateral to Jacob Earl with 2:49 remaining lifted second-ranked North Vermillion to a 27-26 win over No. 5 Pioneer in the Class 1A state title game. Trailing 26-20 and faced with a fourth down and eight play at the Pioneer nine-yard line, Cody Wright completed a to Earl for five yards, who then pitched the ball back to Earl, who proceeded into the end zone to even the game at 26-26. Adam Scott followed with the extra-point to give the Falcons (15-0) their first state crown. The Panthers (13-2) advanced the ball to midfield where Braeden Hollowell recovered a fumble. Earl finished with 21 carries for 101 yards on the ground and three catches for 72 yards and two touchdowns, and Wright completed 12-of-24 passes for 162 yards and two scores. Justin Mersch ran for 157 yards and one score, Keith Nies added 113 yards rushing, and Sam Kiser tallied 121 total yards with a touchdown pass and two runs for scores for Pioneer, which had its 12-game winning streak snapped. Nick Price recorded 10 tackles, and Arthur Depugh had a state championship game record 95-yard interception return for a score for North Vermillion, which finished with 451 total yards. Evan Weir racked up 15 tackles, while Corey Davis and Dakota Chapman added 14 and 13 stops respectively for the Panthers, who were guilty of four turnovers. Pioneer defensive lineman Parker Englert was the recipient of the Phil N. Eskew Mental Attitude Award.
Rylan Arihood carried the football 29 times for 149 yards and one score as No. 2 Rensselaer Central used a strong fourth quarter to pull away for a 45-21 win over No. 1 Evansville Mater Dei for the Class 2A state crown. Leading 28-21 after three quarters, the Bombers (15-0) used a 28-yard field goal by Nathan Ziese and touchdown runs from Arihood and Jake Steinke to clinch their first state title in any sport and complete their first unbeaten season. Steinke finished with two scores, and Trevor Hill added 99 yards on the ground and two touchdowns as Rensselaer racked up 383 yards rushing. Kurtis Wilderman was 10-of-16 through the air for 145 yards and one score to Julian Weidner, who finished with five catches for 114 yards for the Wildcats (14-1). Drayke Richardt chipped in 11 carries for 104 yards, and Roman Weinzapfel tallied 16 tackles for Mater Dei. Austin Fleming racked up six tackles and a pair of fumble recoveries for the Bombers. Arihood was also the winner of the Phil N. Eskew Mental Attitude Award.
Wesley Cook had 14 rushes for 218 yards and three touchdowns and also returned a kickoff 89 yards for another score to start the second half, helping No. 5 Tri-West rally for a 49-27 victory over top-ranked and defending state champion Andrean in the Class 3A finale. Trailing 14-0, the Bruins (14-1) tallied 21 answered points and then outscored Andrean (14-1), 28-6, in the second half to win their fourth state title and first since 2004. Cook finished with 355 all-purpose yards, and Jake Hendershot was 22-of-33 for 279 yards as Tri-West accumulated 465 total yards to notch their 14th straight win. Jake Paliga completed 21-of-36 passes for 237 yards and tied a 3A state championship game record with three touchdowns, and Jamie Johnson added eight receptions for 120 yards and two scores for the 59ers, who had their 29-game and 11-game tournament winning streak halted. Tyler Watson recorded 12 tackles for the Bruins, while D'Angello Collins had seven stops for Andrean. Tri-West center Nick Sprecher was selected the Phil N. Eskew Mental Attitude Award winner.
James Young turned in a record-setting performance with 282 yards rushing and two-touchdowns, including a state championship game record 98 yard run, leading No. 2 New Palestine to a 77-42 win against No. 8 New Prairie for the Class 4A state crown. In capturing their first state crown, the Dragons (15-0) established several new state marks, including points scored (77), points in a half (49), and total yards (673). In all, the two teams combined to tie or break more than 20 overall or Class 3A state game records. Alex Neligh was 13-of-15 through the air for 211 yards and five touchdowns and ran 14 times for 178 yards and three scores for the Dragons. Duke Blackwell added six receptions for 130 yards and three scores, Noah Grable added two touchdown catches, and Gabe Estes and Sterling Curran recorded 14 tackles apiece for New Palestine. Tyler Weller racked up 179 yards rushing and four touchdowns and returned an interception 79 yards for the Cougars, who had 321 yards of offense. Nick Brassell added two scores on the ground for New Prairie (13-2), which saw its 13-game winning streak come to an end. Lineman David Walbring of New Prairie was the winner of the Phil N. Eskew Mental Attitude Award.
Evan Christopher found the end zone three times as No. 7 Indianapolis Cathedral earned its new state record fifth straight state championship with a 56-7 win over LaPorte in the Class 5A title clash. Caleb Cross had 21 carries for 108 yards and also caught a pass for a score as the Irish (9-5) rolled up 313 of its 418 total yards in the first half on its way to a 35-7 cushion and claim its 30th consecutive post-season win. Max Bortenschlager added 195 yards and three touchdown passes by completing 11-of-16 attempts, and Ben Stewart racked up 12 tackles for Cathedral. Charles Salary ran the football 21 times for 123 yards and one score for the Slicers. Salary finished the season with 2,989 yards, which racked him third in the state behind Columbus East's Markell Jones (3,536) and Winchester's Kiante Enis (3,189). Noah Boardman and Jake Payne tallied 12 tackles apiece, and Caleb Yandek added 11 stops for LaPorte. Cathedral center Jared Thomas earned the Phil N. Eskew Mental Attitude Award.
Kyle Castner was 18-of-30 for 136 yards and two touchdowns passes in No. 4 Indianapolis Ben Davis' 42-24 win over top-ranked Carmel for the Class 6A state crown. Trailing 17-0 in the early stages of the second quarter, the Giants used a 75-yard kickoff return by Dawanya Carter to propel them toward 42 unanswered points and their eighth state title and first since 2002. Chris Evans chipped in 19 carries for 131 yards and one score, and Dorian Tate added two touchdowns for the Giants (12-2), who recorded 348 yards of offense. Shakir Paschall rushed for 94 yards and one score, and Chris Perkins tallied two scores on the ground for the Greyhounds (13-1). Notre Dame recruit Asmar Bilal recorded 12 tackles, and Omar Beasley added 10 stops and a fumble recovery for Ben Davis, which avenged an earlier 37-14 loss to Carmel. Alex Akins tallied nine tackles and an interception for the Greyhounds, who turned the ball over three times. Carmel lineman Nate Thompson captured the Phil N. Eskew Mental Attitude Award.
Attendance for the six games was 44,503, compared to 43,985 in 2013. Friday's gathering was 26,439, while Saturday's audience was 18,064. The two-day total was fourth largest crowd all-time and the most since 46,162 fans attended in 2009. Since the two-day tournament was introduced in 1985, the largest crowd came in 2008 when 56,050 attended, including 40,680 for the Class 3A, 4A, and 5A contests.
While North Vermillion, Rensselaer Central, and New Palestine were all first-time winners, Carmel finished runner-up for the second straight year and sixth time overall, while Andrean and Evansville Mater Dei claimed their fourth second place finish.
Rensselaer Central's title was its first in any sport, while North Vermillion had previously won in girls' basketball (Class 1A) in 2002, while New Palestine had championships in baseball (Class 3A) in 2004 and Class 3A softball in 2004, 2008, and 2009.
Indianapolis Cathedral now has 12 state titles in 15 trips, while Ben Davis has eight championships in 10 appearances and Tri-West has won four times in six visits.
LaPorte County had two of its four teams that play football in the state finals in LaPorte and New Prairie. The other two members are South Central (Union Mills) and Michigan City. Marion County also had two representatives in Indianapolis Cathedral and Ben Davis. Other counties involved were Cass (Pioneer), Vanderburgh (Evansville Mater Dei), Vermillion (North Vermillion), Jasper (Rensselaer Central), Lake (Andrean), Hendricks (Tri-West), Hancock (New Palestine), and Hamilton (Carmel). In 2013, Tipton County was represented by both of its teams as Tri-Central captured the Class 1A crown and Tipton finished runner-up in Class 2A.
Coaches winning their first state crown in 2014 were Brian Crabtree (North Vermillion), Chris Meeks (Rensselaer Central), Chris Coll (Tri-West), Kyle Ralph (New Palestine), and Mike Kirschner (Ben Davis), while Rick Streiff (Indianapolis Cathedral) earned his state-best 10th title, surpassing Matt Lindsay (Fort Wayne Bishop Luers) and Larry "Bud" Wright (Sheridan), who both have nine crowns.