BUTLER-This past week saw one of the rare instances for this small town community: hosting a semistate football game with a chance to go to state. At the same time, however, a magical ride also ended that same night losing 17-14 to 2A number 8 Andrean (11-3). That means Andrean will play in their first state championship game in 7 years as they’ll look to win the program’s third state championship. 

Prior to the arrival of the 2022 class, the Eastside Blazers had never won a sectional, let alone a regional championship. They did that in 2019 against Fairfield. Prior to this season, Eastside had never made it past regionals. Well, that’s what made the 2021 season special for the (13-1) Blazers, who came into postseason play 4th in 2A polls. 

They took out the two favorites to go to state in Bishop Luers in the sectional championship game and Eastbrook in the regional championship game. All season long, Eastside always came into every halftime intermission with some kind of lead. However, Semistate didn’t have that same feel. 

Throughout the entire game, Eastside had struggled to adjust to the physical and athletic talent Andrean’s front seven brought on every play. Unlike the past weeks where Eastside was controlling the clock and the running game controlling pace, it was Andrean that did that to the Blazers. 

The entire game saw both teams grinding out clock and battling through a game of mental chess as this game was presented with a physical, defensive affair. A 37-yard field goal by Andrean’s Nico Tovar gave the 59ers a early 3-0 lead with 6:01 to play in the opening quarter. Little did we knew that would be the lone lead change of the night as the Blazers ultimately trailed the entire game. 

However, towards the end of the first quarter, the Blazers started to gain some momentum on their next drive where they went into the second quarter with a red zone opportunity they usually convert in the playoffs. Laban Davis and the Blazer faithful thought they took the lead on his rushing touchdown, when the play was halted by a offensive holding penalty. Those were the kind of bounces this team faced the entire night. That drive concluded with Davis running just short of a first down at the 2-yard line and Andrean taking over on downs. 

While this didn’t immediately come back to bite them, Andrean eventually struck gold. Three drives later, the 59ers would march 65 yards capped off by a 55-yard touchdown pass from Scott Ballentine to his brother Robert with 3:15 left in the first half. This won’t be the last time you’ll hear these two names. 

Despite Eastside forcing a pick on Andrean’s last drive of the half, Eastside trailed for the first time this season. The third quarter wouldn’t be much better as Andrean converted on their first drive of the second half. This time Scott Ballentine took the ball himself into the end zone to extend their lead to 17-0. For most of this game, the Blazers couldn’t find the response they desperately. 

As it reached the fourth and final quarter, It appeared this game was going to be a defensive masterpiece for Andrean. And then…….FUMBLE. On the first play of the final quarter, Eastside’s secondary forces a fumble where Carson Jacobs scooped up the loose ball and returned it 30 yards for the Blazers first score of the game. That made it a 17-7 game, and momentum shifted to the Blazers. 

For most of this quarter, Andrean’s offense couldn’t stay on the field. After failing to convert on 4th down, Eastside stormed back from their own 37 to score another touchdown on a 8-yard pass from Laban Davis to Kyle Bibee. With 5:13 to play in the game, Andrean’s once comfortable lead was slimmed down to a field goal. This Andrean drive was going to either ice the game for good or give Eastside led by Laban Davis to get one last shot in front of their fans. As you can tell by the score, Eastside never got the ball back. 

Notre Dame commit Drayk Bowen ran for 14 yards to get a first down for Andrean. Then on 4th and 6 with 2:20 left in the game and no timeouts for Eastside, Scott Ballentine made one more clutch play, once again connecting with his brother Robert for a 14-yard gain, a first down, and obviously the silencer in Butler. 

Eastside’s loss meant the end to what once was a perfect season for this football team. It snapped a 17-game home winning streak for Eastside dating back to 2019, and it capped off an incredible career for the 2022 class that saw them win 38 games, three conference championships, two sectionals, and the program’s first regional championship. 

Laban Davis ends his remarkable football career with over 5,000 passing yards and 65 touchdown passes, and over 4,100 yards rushing and 55 touchdowns. For a kid coming out of Eastside, those are remarkable numbers. But it also meant the end to 10 other players’ football careers at Eastside, including Gavin Wallace, Dylan Bredemayer, Kyler Bibee, Tanner Wicker, Johnny Eck, Bobby Davis, Zay Fuentes, and Matt Jacobs. 

That being said, it doesn’t take away from what made this run so special. This is the team very few in the Butler and NECC communities will ever forget. 

As for Andrean, they clash with Evansville Mater Dei next Saturday at noon for a 2A state championship at Lucas Oil Stadium