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Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette
Bishop Dwenger center Nathan Niese advances a fumble by teammate Mike Fiacable. Niese also fumbled, and Columbus East recovered and ran out the clock.
High school football: Class 4A finals

Scrappy Saints fall short

Take chances to overcome 21-0 deficit, grab lead in 4th quarter

Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette
Bishop Dwenger’s Gus Schrader caught seven passes for 112 yards against Columbus East.

– Bishop Dwenger wasn’t about to give up on its season after a late losing streak, so why would anyone think it would be any different in the Class 4A state championship game?

Unfortunately for the Saints, though, the second-half rally fell incomplete in a 28-27 loss to top-ranked Columbus East Saturday at Lucas Oil Stadium.

The Saints (11-4) lost for the fourth time in the 4A title game since 2002, while the Olympians (15-0) won their first 4A state title and first state championship since winning the 3A title in 1979.

Dwenger fought back from a 21-0 deficit to take a 27-21 lead on a Tyler Tippmann touchdown with 9:10 left. The Saints went for a two-point conversion with kicker Trey Casaburo being brought down short of the end zone.

“We came to win,” Dwenger coach Chris Svarczkopf said of the decision to go for two points at that point of the game. We took a lot of chances in the second half to get back into the game. Everything we did in the second half was to win the game.”

The Olympians tied the game at 27 with 3:42 left when Alex Cowan scored his second touchdown of the game, and Paul Baker got the margin of victory with the PAT kick.

The Saints made their ninth state title game appearance by rebounding from a three-time slide late in the season that saw them give up 45, 47 and 38 points to Wayne (45-6), Indianapolis Cathedral (47-30) and Snider (38-35).

Dwenger got hot in the postseason and surrendered only 30 points in the postseason, including a 38-0 win over East Chicago Central in the semistate.

“No matter what the score is, no matter what the deficit is, we could be up or we could be down, we will fight to the end,” senior quarterback Mike Fiacable said.

The game ended as it began with the Saints turning the ball over. Driving in the final minutes of the game, the Saints fumbled twice and lost the second one.

Fiacable lost the ball, but it was picked up by Nathan Niese. The Saints’ center ran to near the first-down yardage on a third-and-14 but also lost the ball. The Olympians recovered and ran out the final seconds.

The Saints got the lead in the fourth after Zack Archer’s strip and fumble recovery at the Saints’ 2. Dwenger then went on a 98-yard drive and capped it on Tippmann’s touchdown to take their first lead of the game, 27-21.

The Saints lined up to attempt to kick the tying point-after but instead faked it and the ball was flipped to Casaburo, who never got close to scoring the two points.

“We told them at halftime that we would get back into it, and we would be in a position to win it,” Svarczkopf said. “We just didn’t make the stops we had to and didn’t execute a couple of times.”

Fiacable passed for 280 yards and three touchdowns in the loss.

Gus Schrader caught seven passes for 112 yards, while Ryan Watercutter had six catches for 79 yards.

Dwenger outgained Columbus East 440-421.

Columbus East’s Markell Jones rushed for 197 yards and two scores, while Cowan had 142 yards rushing.

“Both teams came up with big plays, and our guys came up with them when it counted,” Columbus East coach Bob Gaddis said. “(The Olympians’ offensive line) did a phenomenal job up front and the receivers blocked. It was a team effort.”

Dwenger cut the deficit to 21-7 just before halftime on a 15-yard pass from Fiacable to Gabe Espinoza.

“It gave us momentum going into the second half,” Fiacable said of the second-quarter score. “We got the ball to start the third quarter, and we knew if we could get a score then we could come back and win the game.”

Schrader then caught two touchdown pass from Fiacable in the third to tie the score at 21.

“I didn’t want the season to end, and it sucks it had to end this way,” Schrader said. “Our coaches just did a phenomenal job of finding out what would work, and we were running plays that they couldn’t stop (in the second half).”

The Olympians capitalized on two Saints’ first-quarter turnovers to score twice and take a 14-0 lead.

gjones@jg.net

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