BERNE – South Adams is preparing for its first-ever trip to the state football finals Saturday, where the Starfires will face Covenant Christian for the Class A title.
The Warriors (14-0) will probably be the speediest and most talented team the Starfires (13-0) have faced all season. Each school will be allotted 3,500 tickets, nearly enough for every man, woman and child who resides in Berne, and certainly more than have ever fit in the stands during South Adams home games.
So what do the Starfires have to say about preparing for the biggest football game of their careers?
Try “What a relief.”
“It’s like our coach told us, all the pressure is gone now. We’ve made it here. So it’s just fun and games now,” said senior tight end and defensive end Nick Miller. “We’ve been told from third grade up that we’d be here, and now we’re finally here. It’s almost unreal, but we’re ready for it.”
Multiple Starfires players and coaches echoed Miller’s account, saying that the adults have for a decade been telling this class of 2021 that they had an unusual amount of gifted athletes. And while that gave the future Starfires plenty of encouragement and motivation, coach Grant Moser said he also knew how much pressure his players felt to reach the title game when so many people believed they would be the first South Adams team to do it.
Now that they’ve finally made it, Moser said, they can “play free.”
“It was fun on Friday night, kind of seeing the relief in the guys eyes, the monkey’s off their back. Because they’ve been talked about so much and hyped so much, ‘this is the team that’s going to go to state,’” Moser said.
“Now that we’re here, they just need to play their game.”
Senior wide receiver and defensive back Drew Stutzman said he and his classmates have been working toward the title game for much of their young lives, but he still finds it hard to believe that the playground dream from his childhood will be a reality this Saturday.
“It’s awesome, it’s an awesome feeling. It’s something that we’ve been working on since Day 1. Even way back in elementary school, over in the other building, we dreamed of this moment. And it’s such a surreal feeling, being here with the guys that I love and the team that I love in this position, to take a shot at this opportunity,” Stutzman said. “Even the older people, I wouldn’t necessarily know who they were. They come up and tell me, ‘We’ve got your back no matter what.’ That means the world, when we can go to town and get told that. And also, the teachers always say they are going to be at the game. That’s huge, that means the world to us.”
After the semistate win, the team paraded around Berne in firetrucks, followed by a 10-minute-long train of parents and supporters in their cars. Stutzman said he and Miller were given control of the firetruck horn.
“What’s cool is, you’d think they’d get mad, they don’t. People come out of their houses, flashing lights, waving at us. Someone was playing our fight song on the radio real loud when we went by, it was so cool,” Moser said of the noisy celebration through the center of town late Friday. “It’s so cool having the community’s support. I had 148 texts Friday night. So I went through and I was having to send text messages back. And that’s cool, everyone knows everyone and there’s so much support for our program and our school in general.”
The one somber lining to all of this celebration and preparation is the knowledge that win or lose, overtime thriller or blowout, this will be the last time the members of this senior class will play a football game together.
“It’s bittersweet. I wouldn’t want our last game to be anywhere else, or with anyone else, doing anything else,” senior running back Christian Summersett said. “It’s going to be a moment to cherish, because it’s history here for South Adams. Nothing like it.”
If you go
Who: South Adams vs. Covenant Christian
What: Class A final
When: 11 a.m. Saturday
Where: Lucas Oil Stadium
Records: South Adams (13-0); Covenant Christian (14-0)
TV: Fox Sports Indiana; in-area streaming on Fox Sports GO app; out-of-area streaming at IHSAATV.org
Radio: 1380 AM