INDIANAPOLIS – Adams Central struck quickly in the Class A state championship game Friday against Indianapolis Lutheran at Lucas Oil Stadium.
The Jets scored two touchdowns before late arrivals could take their seats – not that there were any latecomers in Adams Central's packed cheering section. Blake Heyerly ran for three touchdowns, Nick Neuenschwander set a record for the longest punt return for a touchdown in a Class A final, the Jets nabbed an interception and a fumble recovery and mounted a game-tying drive late in the fourth quarter.
Even so, the Jets' effort came up short as Adams Central fell to the No. 1-ranked team in Class A 34-28.
“It's heartache, that we kept fighting and fighting and fighting, and just couldn't get our offense going,” Adams Central coach Michael Mosser said. “They really gave us fits there in the second half. And then we had a couple breaks in the second half and couldn't punch it in. And then got a couple more breaks, but it just didn't go our way.”
After Heyerly, a senior running back, scored his third touchdown of the game to tie the contest at 28 with 3:18 to play, Lutheran senior quarterback Montasi Clay threw a 50-yard pass to Brandon Brooks to get down to the Adams Central 13, and then soon scored the winning touchdown on a 12-yard quarterback keeper with 1:13 to play.
The extra point was blocked by Zach Wurm, giving the Jets (13-2) a glimmer of hope. But a pass from junior quarterback Ryan Black intended for Braysen Yergler was picked off by Cur-Brian Shelby to effectively end the game.
“I couldn't ask for more for these kids. These kids played to the bitter end,” Mosser said. “It speaks volumes to who the Adams Central football community is. These kids played their hearts out. It's bittersweet. It's great to be here. we came down here to win and just couldn't get that done.”
Indianapolis Lutheran (15-0) was hailed as the fastest team Adams Central would face this season, but in the opening minutes it was the Saints who couldn't keep up. Neuenschwander opened the game with a 19-yard kick return, ran for 21 yards on the first play from scrimmage and later in the drive had another 21-yard run that brought the Jets to the 2. Heyerly, who was named the Blake Ress Mental Attitude Award Winner after the game, punched it in on the next play.
Lutheran quickly punted away its first possession, and Neuenschwander returned that punt for 59 yards, shaking off two Saints along the way to give Adams Central a 14-0 lead at 6:42 in the first quarter.
“I'm not gonna lie, I didn't see anything. We were going right and I didn't see anything, so I went left, broke a few tackles,” said Neuenschwander, who finished with 295 all-purpose yards. “That's one thing that's special about this team, they don't give up on plays. We're always fighting to the (whistle).”
A 38-yard return by Lutheran's 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 fourth-and-3 with a 32-yard pass from Montasi to senior Jake Pasch to cut the Jets' led to 14-7.
After two fruitless series, 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. They took 16 plays and 5:51 to go 57 yards, concluding with a Heyerly touchdown for 2 yards to go 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 good fortune ran out when Neuenschwander fumbled and the Saints recovered to set up a Pasch 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. Adams Central defensive back Alex Currie wrestled Pasch for the ball in the end zone but was unable to pull it away.
A 71-yard touchdown pass from Clay to Micah Mackay gave Lutheran its first lead of the game – 28-21 at 3:06 in the third.
Neuenschwander made yet another spectacular play when he intercepted Clay and returned the ball 61 yards to the 4 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. That play set up Heyerly's game-tying score with 3:18 to play.
The Adams Central run game outgained Lutheran 205 yards to 107, but Lutheran's Clay completed 14 of 21 passes for 239 yards while the Jets gained just 12 yards in the air.