The action at Lucas Oil Stadium doesn’t just stop on Friday as we have another full plate of state championship games continuing through Saturday! The best of the best in each conference have ridden on an unforgiving path since the beginning of summer to get to the point that many can only dream of, and with just one game left in the season for each school; 2A, 4A, and 6A teams will be dueling it out to become the top dog in their conferences.
Andrean Fighting 59ers vs. Evansville Mater Dei Wildcats / 12:00 P.M. EST.
Championship matchups are no obscurity for both Andrean (11-3) and Evansville Mater Dei (12-2) with 13 state final appearances for the two teams combined. The 59ers came into the tournament ranked #8 in the AP poll and #3 in the coaches poll while Mater Dei ranked #7 in both polls. 2A was no easy conference this year with many dominant teams including Eastbrook, Eastside, and Fort Wayne Bishop, resulting in two of the most deserving teams in Indiana playing it out at Lucas Oil.
Just last week in semi-state, Andrean pulled off a thriller against undefeated Eastside to come out with a 17-14 win. Losses to Merrillville, Central Catholic (MI), and Lowell plagued Andrean’s season, but the 59ers have been nothing short of dominant in tournament play.
5-star Notre Dame commit Drayk Bowen has been the star of the show for Andrean on both offense at running back and defense at linebacker. The multi-sport athlete is exactly the leader you want on your team with an amazing frame at 6’2 and 215 lbs along with a 4.11 GPA. The junior has been spectacular with 99 tackles, 9 tackles for a loss, 2 sacks, 3 interceptions, and a forced fumble. The Ballentine brothers have been a spectacular QB-WR duo on offense. As a sophomore, Scott Ballentine has 2,745 yards with 27 touchdowns. Senior wide receiver Robby Ballentine has been the go-to guy for his brother with 863 yards and 9 touchdowns.
For Evansville Mater Dei, head coach Mike Goebel in his 25th year of coaching has led his team to an amazing season. After suffering losses to Evansville Memorial and Jasper, the Wildcats have won 9 straight. A one-point victory over Linton-Stockton sent them through to sectional finals in which they dominated North Posey, rolled over Triton Central in regionals, and finished off the dominant postseason in semi-state over Indianapolis Scecina.
Junior Mason Wunderlich has led the passing attack for Mater Dei with a stat line of 2,470 yards and 28 touchdowns. Joey Pierre ran for 1,222 yards and 10 touchdowns as the premier runner. James Ralph has just recently received his first D1 offer from Drake University. With 94 tackles, 32.5 tackles for a loss, 7 sacks, and 2 forced fumbles, the offer was rightfully deserved.
Northridge Raiders vs. Mt. Vernon Marauders / 3:30 P.M. EST.
Both Mt. Vernon (13-1) and Northridge (10-4) have completely defied all odds to make it to the state finals in an extremely competitive 4A conference with Jasper, Leo, and Roncalli all headlining the group. Both teams are appearing in their first state championship game for football in school history, and as state final pioneers for their schools, expectations are high to feast on a win this Thanksgiving weekend.
Northridge finished the regular season 5-4 and with low expectations to make it far in the tournament. Despite these expectations, the Raiders rallied around first-year head coach Chad Eppley and defeated #2 Leo in OT in sectional championships and #9 New Prairie in semi-state. Now, competing in their first-ever state final, coach Eppley has the chance to become just the fifth first-year head coach to win a state championship.
Northridge has surrounded their team with junior hybrid superstar, Tagg Gott. Tagg shined on the ground this year with 1,030 yards and 15 touchdowns. As starting quarterback, he has thrown for 1,018 yards and 8 touchdowns and has even racked up 6 receptions for 57 yards. On defense, Tagg Gott has 84 tackles, 11.5 TFLs, 4 sacks, 1 interception, and 1 forced fumble with 2 fumble recoveries. Senior running back and linebacker Ridge Howard has also been a large part of the offense, but more impactful on the defensive as he leads the team with tackles with 145 and tackles for a loss with 12.5.
Mt. Vernon has not had an easy road as well, but after a week 1 loss to Noblesville, the Marauders have won 13 straight. They lead all of the IHSAA in points per game at 48.4 and only scored below 42 points twice in the season. After an extraordinary upset over undefeated Roncalli in regional championships, they steamrolled over Evansville Memorial and sent themselves to Lucas Oil.
On offense, an electric passing and rushing duo between QB Gehrig Slunaker, WR Ashden Gentry, and RB Keegan LaBelle have been unstoppable to opposing defenses. Gehrig Slunaker has played like one of the best in Indiana throwing for 2,793 yards and 31 touchdowns to 3 interceptions. Though Ashden Gentry is just 5’8, he has 1,141 yards and 12 of those touchdowns. The trio is capped off with Keegan LaBelle who has been dominant on the ground with over 1,500 yards and 24 touchdowns.
Westfield Shamrocks vs. Center Grove Trojans / 7:00 P.M. EST.
To end off a long weekend of high school football, Westfield (12-1) takes on Center Grove (13-0) for the second year in a row at state finals. Last year, Center Grove dominated Westfield to win their first-ever 6A state championship. Both teams have gotten considerably better throughout the offseason, and therefore we couldn’t imagine a more fitting way to end off the season rather than a matchup between the #1 and #2 teams in 6A.
Westfield fell to powerhouse Cathedral in week 1. Since then, they have won 12 straight over some of the toughest competition including Brownsburg, Avon, and state finalist Zionsville to finish the regular season 8-1. In the postseason, a tough road against Noblesville, Hamilton Southeastern, Carrol, and Merrillville has prepared them to take on the best at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Maximus Webster, who has committed to Ball State, has undoubtedly been a special quarterback for Westfield this season as he has thrown for over 2,000 yards and 16 touchdowns to just 2 interceptions. RB/DB Micah Hauser has been the heart of the Shamrocks on offense and defense. The D1 prospect has 1,252 yards rushing and 23 rushing touchdowns on offense as well as 3 interceptions and a forced fumble on defense.
For Center Grove, they have had a truly magical season going undefeated, ranked #1 in Indiana, and ranked as high as #8 in the country by MaxPreps. The Trojans are competing for a state title for the third year in a row. Head coach Eric Moore has not tasted defeat for 27 straight games. In the postseason, CGHS beat #7 Lawrence North and #10 Ben Davis to make it to Lucas Oil.
Quarterback and Tennessee commit Tayven Jackson is a household name in Indiana leading Center Grove to another appearance in the state finals. Throwing for 1,616 yards and 20 touchdowns to just 3 interceptions, it is easy to see why Jackson has been looked at by many prestigious universities including Auburn, Florida State, Texas A&M, Ole Miss, UCLA, and more! Caden Curry is another name thrown around when talking about Center Grove. With a seven-sack season, Curry has gotten offers from Ohio State, Alabama, Clemson, Notre Dame, Oregon, Michigan, and more. The Adidas All American is the 28th ranked defensive lineman recruit in Indiana by 247 Sports and has made a name for himself around the country.