After a 20-14 home win over Concordia in a Class 3A sectional final Friday night, Bishop Luers (8-4) expressed gratitude for a unified mindset that has helped the program return to the regional round of the playoffs for the first time since 2014.
“We're a family,” said junior wide receiver/defensive back Justin Gaston, who credits running back Ty Hambright. “He's a huge leader. He is a captain and motivates us a lot. He just pushes us to be great, and we play for the seniors. I don't want their season to end.”
Hambright said he is following the examples of the Knights' past.
“We've been led by some seniors previous years,” Hambright said. “They led us up to where we're at today. It all paid off. Everything we did, we did for them.”
Beating Concordia was extra sweet.
“We had a chip on our shoulder because they got us in the past,” Gaston said. “We had that in the back of our mind. We didn't want our season to end early.”
Next up: a home game against Mishawaka Marian (8-4).
“We'll put together our best week of practice,” Bishop Luers coach Kyle Lindsay said. “We'll be up for the challenge.”
After winning its 11th straight sectional championship, No. 2 Snider earned the right to host No. 10 Carmel in a Class 6A regional final. Easily the state's largest school with an even 5,000 students, Carmel could do its part to mitigate the Panthers' home-field advantage by bringing a large crowd to Spuller Stadium on Friday.
But there's an advantage for Snider that some may overlook. It's not just playing at home, and the familiarity associated with a home game – it's the field at Spuller. As in, the grass playing surface.
While the Panthers primarily play on grass fields around the SAC, Friday's regional will mark the first time all season the Greyhounds haven't played on artificial turf.
“We're going to have to use the grass to our advantage,” Snider receiver David Nakasen said. “We take a lot of pride in (being the best team in Fort Wayne). It feels good to be home against a good team.”
Bishop Dwenger started the season with a win against Wayne, and the Saints defeated the Generals again in a Class 4A sectional championship Friday.
Both teams changed over the season. Dwenger started a sophomore quarterback, Patrick O'Keefe, in Friday's sectional.
“I'm proud of this group,” Bishop Dwenger coach Chris Svarczkopf said. “This has been a great group to work with, fantastic leadership, they've come together as a team, we've asked a lot of guys to change positions. There's been nothing but camaraderie.”
The Saints now head up north to face 12-0 Angola, a team that's won its last two games in overtime en route to its first sectional championship since 1992.
With a solid showing on offense, defense and special teams while taking advantage of key Wayne turnovers, O'Keefe feels as though more of the same will give the Saints a “17” to put on their regional banner in the gym.
“Doing the same thing we did (Friday),” he said. “Not allowing any big plays and making plays when we need to.
“Confidence is huge. If we go into the week knowing we're going to win, if everyone believes we can win, we think we can get the job done.”