first-timer Whiteland after defeating semistate opponents
Lutheran defensive back Cur’Brian Shelby (8) tackles North Decatur quarterback Carson Parmer (7) as Saints Kam Patterson (88) and Jonny Hall (16) close in during Class A semistate championship game.
By Al Stilley
Southside football is on a history-making ride all the way to Lucas Oil Stadium to compete in a record three IHSAA class championship games.
For the first time in Hoosierland high school football history, three Southside teams - 6A Center Grove, 5A Whiteland, and 1A Lutheran - will chase state championships on same weekend.
The Southside has sent two teams to the state finals in four of the past seven seasons, including three straight seasons (2019 - 2021). In 2019, Center Grove and Lutheran fell; Center Grove and Roncalli won in 2020; and last year, Center Grove and Lutheran each won.
Roncalli fell Friday on the road at East Central in an overtime thriller, or else the Southside would have had an astounding four teams playing over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.
There was a 28-year gap between 1988 when 3A champion Roncalli and 4A runner-up Franklin Central reached the state finals outdoors at Warren Central and 2016 when 4A Roncalli won and 6A Center Grove lost in Lucas Oil Stadium.
CG is aiming at a three-peat, Lutheran a two-peat. Whiteland is making its first trip to the state finals.
Friday - 7 p.m., 6A, No. 5 Ft. Wayne Carroll (13-0) vs. No. 3 Center Grove (11-2).
Saturday - 11 a.m., 1A, No. 2 Adams Central (14-0) vs. No. 3 Lutheran (14-0).
Saturday - 7 p.m., 5A, No. 9 Valparaiso (10-3) vs. No. 2 Whiteland (12-1).
The 6A Trojans reached the title game by defeating Cathedral, 33-10, avenging a regular season loss to the Irish; 5A Whiteland downed Castle, 21-7; and 1A Lutheran overcame three rare turnovers and dumped North Decatur, 28-7.
Each of the three Southside teams reached Lucas Oil Stadium in their own special ways.
Two-time state champion Center Grove opened the season with a senior-heavy roster with several NCAA D1 recruits having graduated. Holes existed on offense and defense.
Nonetheless, coach Eric Moore and the Trojans staff bundled together another state final entry - not as flashy as last year’s team but one that was as basic with the wing-T offense and steady on defense.
At North Decatur, Lutheran collided with its strongest foe of 2022. The Saints had outscored its previous playoff opponents, 210-7.
Out of character, the Saints committed three turnovers and were penalized two more times than North Decatur. The Saints and previously undefeated Chargers were deadlocked 7-7 at halftime.
The second half was all Lutheran. Jackson Willis connected with DeVuan Jones on a 68-yard TD pass in the third quarter that rejuvinated the Saints. In the fourth quarter, Joe Davis scored TDs on runs of 2 and 9 yards.
Willis wound up completing 15 of 25 passes for 220 yards; Davis carried 31 times for 207 yards and 3 TDs.
Defensively, Lutheran limited ND to only 140 yards total offense. Lutheran was led by Jonny Hall with 11 tackles, Cole Snow and Jake Akins 10 apiece, and Cur’Brian Shelby and Jacob Roberts eight each, and Cameron McHaney with seven tackles and one sack.
At Castle, Whiteland claimed its first semistate championship by dominating the first half with 200 yards rushing and touchdowns by Slate Valentine, 17 yards, and Kevin Denham, 2 yards.
Running back Peyton Emberton gained 104 yards on 20 carries and Johnathan Crowley had 96 yards on 11 carries. The Warriors racked up a massive 405 yards on the ground.
At East Central, Roncalli and the host Trojans locked together in a predicted thriller.
Both teams relied on a solid ground game and tenacious defense.
The hosts won by blocking a potential game-winning field goal and later kicking the winning field goal in overtime.
Roncalli, looking for its second trip to Lucas Oil Stadium in three years, found momentum in the fourth quarter.
Trailing 21-14, Roncalli marched 80 yards in eight plays and tied the game on Luke Hansen’s 4-yard TD run with 5:40 left in the game. Hansen, also a defensive back, was able to get a strip sack on EC’s first play from scrimmage after the kickoff. Hansen then carried the ball nine straight times for 32 yards. However on fourth down, EC blocked Joe Parrett’s 30-yard field goal attempt with 27 seconds left to force overtime.
Roncalli failed to score on three carries in OT and fumbled on fourth down to set the stage for EC’s winning field goal.
Hansen finished with 204 yards and part of a senior class that went 37-4 over three seasons.
Roncalli coach praised the Royals’ high expectations and senior class.