Doug McSchooler | For The Journal-Gazette Woodlan senior Ah'lan Howard scores a touchdown during the second half of the Class 2A state championship game last Saturday in Indianapolis. The Warriors held a late lead but failed to win their first state title in a 15-14 loss to Southridge.
Friday, December 01, 2017 1:00 am
Woodlan comes oh, so close
Team's near miss at state heads top 10 stories of year
GREG JONES | The Journal Gazette
Aubree Reichel (195-42)
Greg Jones (194-43)
Mark Jaworski (190-47)
Josh Patterson (190-47)
Woodlan came up just short of giving northeast Indiana its third straight season with at least one state champion.
The Warriors, who fell 15-14 to Southridge at Lucas Oil Stadium last Saturday, were looking to join Concordia (2016) in 3A and Snider in 5A and Bishop Dwenger in 4A (2015) in holding the state title trophy above their collective heads.
But despite the defeat, high school football fans again were treated to a local team making the trek to compete for a crown at the home of the Indianapolis Colts. In fact, since 2000 there has been only one season (2005) when at least one area team wasn't competing on the big stage for the big prize.
With the season officially wrapped up, here's a look at my top 10 headlines of the year.
1. Woodlan falls late at state
The Warriors' second appearance at the state finals ended frustratingly like the first one, with a one-point loss. Against Southridge in the 2A title game, Woodlan had a late lead but was foiled by a late turnover, a late Raiders' score and two-point conversion in the 15-14 defeat. The 1981 team lost to Hamilton Southeastern 7-6 in 1A.
2. Warriors win semistate on field goal
Facing the No. 1 team in 2A on the road, Luke Crilly got just enough of a 28-yard field goal to send Woodlan to a 15-14 win over Eastbrook and a trip to the state finals.
In what is regarded as one of the toughest places to win around this part of the state, the Warriors got their second straight road win and held one of the most explosive offenses in the state to only two scores.
3. Dwenger falls at semistate; coach retires
Not soon after the Saints' 21-7 loss to Lowell in a 4A semistate to end a surprising postseason run, veteran coach Chris Svarczkopf announced his retirement after 15 years of leading the program and four decades of coaching.
Svarczkopf, who battled cancer during Dwenger's state championship in 2015, led the Saints to five state championship appearances and was 149-49 at the school.
4. Carmel rallies past Snider
The Greyhounds trailed by 14 points before rallying for a 22-21 win over the Panthers, who were in their first season in 6A after winning the 5A state title in 2015 and making a semistate appearance in 2016.
Penalties and mistakes were Snider's undoing as it dropped a fourth straight game to Carmel.
5. Rhoades suspended; Woodlan still wins regional
Whether it was a kick or not, Woodlan's Jack Rhoades still was ejected for the act against a Central Noble player in the sectional finals and subsequently had to sit out the next game, a regional road trip to North Newton.
But Amarion Hicks and company stepped up and the Warriors kept their magical season alive with a 40-28 win over the Spartans. Hicks replaced Rhoades, a 2,000-plus yard rusher this season, at running back and went for 234 yards and three touchdowns.
6. Snider has Homestead's number
The Spartans would have been undefeated this season, if it were not for the Panthers. Snider rolled past Homestead 52-31 in a shootout at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis in the regular season before getting a 37-0 shutout rout in a 6A sectional opener.
The Spartans went 8-0 against every other team on their schedule, but 0-2 against the Panthers. Homestead had a winning margin of 18 points per game, but was outscored by Snider 44.5-15.5.
7. Angola's undefeated regular season
Zero had a couple of different meanings for the Hornets, one positive and one negative. Angola went 12-0, including 9-0 in the regular season, but that run ended with a 34-0 loss to Bishop Dwenger in a 4A regional.
The Hornets got to the regional game with a pair of overtime wins, against NorthWood (28-21) and Culver Academy (31-30) before running out of late-game magic against the Saints.
8. Adams Central finally beats Woodlan, wins ACAC title
Five straight years the Jets finished the regular season with a loss against the Warriors, the previous two seasons with the ACAC title on the line with with one-point losses in 2014 and 2015. But Adams Central got a bit of redemption and won the conference championship with a 30-21 win over the eventual 2A state runner-up.
It was the Jets' first ACAC crown in 18 years.
9. Bishop Luers knocks off defending state champs
The Knights had a relatively quiet regular season with a 5-4 record and a fifth-place finish in the SAC. Included in those four losses was a 28-7 setback against Concordia, the 2016 3A state champion.
But Luers was ready for the rematch and got a 20-14 win over the Cadets in the sectional finals. The Knights would fall a week later against Mishawaka Marian, 30-7.
10. Central Noble's resurgence
The Cougars were 2-8 in 2016 and hadn't gotten more wins than losses since going 6-5 in 2007. But not only did Central Noble turn things around, it did in impressive fashion with a shared NECC small-school championship and a sectional finalist finish.
Central Noble got at least eight wins since going 10-1 in 2003.
Greg Jones is the assistant sports editor for The Journal Gazette and has been covering sports in Fort Wayne since 1998. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org; phone, 461-8224; or fax, 461-8648.