For the second straight year, Saint Joseph’s and Bishop Luers will represent the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend at the Indiana High School Athletic Association football state finals.
Both schools punched their tickets to this weekend’s action with semistate victories. Saint Joseph’s downed West Lafayette, 21-13, to earn a spot in the Class 3-A state finals. Defending state champion Bishop Luers outlasted Bremen, 35-21, to return to the Class 2-A championship game.
“It’s something that a lot of really, really good coaches and teams either don’t experience or rarely get to experience,” said Saint Joseph’s Coach Ben Downey. “So it’s something we absolutely have to appreciate, because nobody knows if or when we’ll be back.”
After posting shutouts to win the sectional and regional, the Indians defense set the tone in the win over West Lafayette. Kevin McFadden’s 26-yard interception return for a touchdown in the first quarter put the tribe on top. Then, late in the first half, Saint Joseph’s executed the hook-and-ladder play for a 36-yard touchdown from quarterback Nick Carmola to Denton Gillis, flipping to Pat Klima for the score.
The Red Devils responded in the second half, but Saint Joseph’s cornerback Joe Watkins broke up a fourth-down pass late in the fourth quarter to clinch the return trip to Lucas Oil Stadium and a rematch with state champion Bishop Chatard of Indianapolis.
“It was an awesome opportunity to experience last year,” recalls senior Collin Hickey. “But we lost. We don’t want to fall short again this time.”
Bishop Luers looks for its third straight state title after fending off a challenge from a strong Bremen squad. Big plays were the difference for the Knights.
After taking a 7-0 lead on Jaylon Smith’s six-yard touchdown run, Luers padded the margin with a 61-yard pass play from James Knapke to Michael Rogers.
Bremen closed the gap to seven and the Lions were driving towards a tying score in the fourth when Logan Dorman knocked the ball loose from Bremen back Braxston Miller. Kendrick Mullen picked up the fumble and ran 62 yards for the touchdown to make it a 28-14 game.
Two plays later, Andrew Spencer intercepted a pass and raced 30 yards to paydirt to help seal the win.
“Defensive wins championships,” said Smith, who ran for 107 yards. “We have some amazing coaches in Matt Milhouse and Coach Lew Goodwin, and they do a great job on the practice field getting us prepared.”
Coach Matt Lindsay will look to tie a state record with his ninth state title when the Knights face Evansville Mater Dei Friday night at Lucas Oil Stadium.
“This is a great feat by these young men,” said a humble Lindsay. “Every team is a different entity, a different mindset. This is a different football team than the one we had last year.”
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