INDIANAPOLIS – The Adams Central Flying Jets grabbed an early lead and came back to tie the Class A state finals game with Indianapolis Lutheran in the fourth quarter, but ultimately fell 34-28 in the team's second state championship game.
Indianapolis Lutheran (15-0) was hailed as the fastest team the Flying Jets (13-2) had encountered this season, but Adams Central struck right out of the gate. Senior Nick Neuenschwander returned the opening kick for 19 yards and ran for 21 yards on the first play from scrimmage. Another 21 yard gain for Neuenschwander later in the drive took the Jets to the 2-yard line, and senior Blake Heyerly took it the final 2 yards for the touchdown with 10:12 still to play in the first quarter.
Heyerly was the recipient of the Blake Ress Mental Attitude Award.
Lutheran secured one first down before punting, and Neuenschwander once again lined up to return. This time, he slipped and nearly fell as he caught the ball, but he righted himself, shook off a Lutheran player wrapped around his waist, and then ran to his left. He dodged another Lutheran player who threw himself at Neuenschwander's feet near the Adams Central sideline, and then scored on a 59-yard return. That is the longest punt return for a touchdown in Class A finals history, besting the previous mark of 55 set by Adams Central's Nick Foreman in the Jets' only other state finals visit in 2000. That put the Jets up 14-0 with 6:42 left to play in the first quarter.
A 38-yard return by Lutheran senior Montasi Clay and a penalty for a late hit on the return gave the Saints the ball at the Adams Central 39 to start the next drive. Though the Adams Central defense held for the first three downs, the Saints scored their first touchdown on 4th & 3 with a 32-yard pass from Montasi to senior Jake Pasch, cutting the Jets led to 14-7 with 5:03 left to play in the first quarter.
Adams Central had another chance to score on the next possession: senior Alex Currie appeared to have scored on a 23-yard run, but the play was called back due to an illegal block in the back. The Jets couldn't make up for the penalty, and after two incomplete passes turned the ball over on downs.
But the Jets got the ball back with 31 seconds left in the first quarter, and, for the first time all game, ate up clock time just like they had planned. They took 16 plays and 5:51 to go 57 yards, concluding with a Heyerly touchdown for 2 yards that put the Jets up 21-7 with 6:40 left in the half.
The Saints turned the ball over on downs with 3:16 left in the half, but Adams Central's luck turned when Neuenschwander fumbled and Pasch recovered the ball for the Saints. Lutheran picked up more yardage on a targeting penalty, and Pasch scored a touchdown on a 6-yard run with 30 seconds remaining in the half to make the score 21-14.
The Saints received the ball to start the second half, and Clay once again targeted Pasch, this time for a 30-yard touchdown, to tie the game at 21 with 9 minutes to play in the third. Currie wrestled Pasch for the ball in the end zone, but was unable to pull it away.
That scoring drive was followed by three straight punts, the last of which was a 47-yard by Heyerly that put the Saints at their own 29. That was no trouble for Clay, who hit Micah Mackay for a 71-yard touchdown that game Lutheran its first lead of the game at 28-21 at 3:06 in the third.
On the next drive, Adams Central quarterback Ryan Black was intercepted by Mackay, but the 32-yard touchdown return was called back due to a Lutheran penalty on the return. The Saints would end up turning the ball over on downs on that drive, as would Adams Central on its next possession.
Neuenschwander made yet another spectacular play when he intercepted Clay and returned the ball 61 yards to the 4-yard line with 9:15 to play. Despite the excellent field position, the Jets failed to score after losing ground on a double-reverse play on third down.
The Jets defense, however, gave themselves another chance when sophomore Ryan Tester ripped the ball away from Joe Davis and took the ball to the Lutheran 34. This time, Adams Central scored on a 3-yard rush by Heyerly that tied the game at 28 with 3:26 left to play.
Lutheran's Clay returned the kick off 39 yards to his own 44, hit Brandon Brooks with a 50-yard pass and then scored the go-ahead touchdown with 1:13 to play. Zach Wurm blocked the extra point to make the score 34-28.
Neuenschwander had one final key return, this time for 24 yards, but a deflected pass by Black was intercepted by Lutheran's Cur'Brian Shelby, icing the game.