When Westfield coach Jake Gilbert was asked if Columbus East reminded him of any team in the Hoosier Crossroads Conference, Gilbert knew exactly that team.

“Us,” he said.

The Class 5A No. 5 Shamrocks employ a similar offense and defense as the 5A No. 4 Olympians. Both teams are run-oriented.

Westfield throws the ball about twice as much as East. Andy Sweet has completed 86 of 164 passes for 1,266 yards, with 13 touchdowns and four interceptions.

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“He does a great job taking care of the football, and that’s been the formula for us,” Gilbert said. “If we win the turnover battle, we almost always win the game. He takes care of the ball so well. He’s an excellent runner and an athlete, and he’s hit some good deep shots throughout the year to Evan Manley that kind of backs the defense up a little bit. He works very well in our system.”

Manley is the leading receiver with 28 catches for 612 yards and 10 scores.

Nate Froelich is the feature back with 219 carries for 1,150 yards and 16 touchdowns. Johnny Swidan has 154 carries for 778 yards and seven scores.

Like East coach Bob Gaddis sometimes does with Jamon Hogan and Jaedin Miller, Gilbert occasionally uses both Froelich and Swidan in the backfield at the same time.

“It’s kind of a two-headed monster,” Gilbert said. “They’re different, though. They’re physical kids. They’re not speed-burner guys, but they’re run-through you type of guys, break-tackle guys.”

Also like the Olympians, the Shamrocks are in the state finals for the second time in four years. None of the current Westfield seniors played in that state title game as freshmen, when it lost to Cathedral.

In 2013, the Shamrocks were more of a passing team with Nick Ferrer, who now is the quarterback at St. Francis.

“We’re pretty different, maybe similar defensively, and I’d say our kicking game is also similarly strong,” Gilbert said. “Offensively, we’re more of a running team and a two-back team this year, whereas in 2013, we had a great quarterback. We definitely ran the ball, but we had a Division I receiver and a stud quarterback.”

Westfield has a big weapon in kicker-punter Will Harrison. Harrison kicked three field goals, including a 53-yarder in a 23-17 semistate win against 5A No. 1 Fort Wayne Snider.

The Shamrocks played six Class 6A teams during the regular season, including one-point losses to Hamilton Southeastern and at Brownsburg. In Week 3, Westfield won 48-8 against a Zionsville team that East beat 42-25 in the regional.

“(The conference is) brutal,” Gilbert said. “I would contend that those are clearly some of the best coaches in the state. They’re some great teams athletically with Division I players and just solid physical teams. You have to strap up and play against some big, tough teams every week.”

The Shamrocks, who are likely to move up to 6A next year because of enrollment growth, have won seven in a row.

“We don’t have Division I guys, but we have a lot of depth and good overall football players,” Gilbert said. “We have 40 seniors, and they have stuck around and worked and worked and loved each other and committed to the program, and it’s been an amazing ride.”

MEET THE SHAMROCKS

Westfield starters

OFFENSE

QB Andy Sweet

RB Nate Froelich

WR Evan Manley

WR Kaleb Pettijohn

WR Kyle Piepot

TE Hayden Russell

T Matthew Robinson

T Gannon Asher

G Chad Reeh

G Spencer Stachyra

C Austin Dollens

K Will Harrison

DEFENSE

DE Byron Hubbard

DE Brian Skelton

DT Collin Caldwell

DT Griffin Lickfeldt

LB Hank Grenda

LB Josh Tuffnell

LB Jackson Garrett

CB Caleb Sanburn

CB Chris Zolto

SS Koby Hauser

FS Justin Frey

P Will Harrison

SEASON RESULTS FOR WESTFIELD AND EAST

Westfield (11-2)

Aug. 19;at West Lafayette Harrison;W 38-17

Aug. 26;Southport;W;27-0

Sept. 2;Zionsville;W 48-8

Sept. 9;at Noblesville;W 28-7

Sept. 16;Hamilton Southeastern;L 21-20

Sept. 23;at Brownsburg;L 29-28

Sept. 30;Avon;W 21-20

Oct. 7;at Fishers;W 31-24

Oct. 14;Brebeuf Jesuit;W 37-21

Sectional

Oct. 28;at Lafayette Jeff;W 38-14

Nov. 4;McCutcheon;W 34-7

Regional

Nov. 11;Kokomo;45-7

Semistate

Nov. 18;Fort Wayne Snider;W 23-17

Columbus East (13-1)

Aug. 19;Bloomington North;W 62-7

Aug. 26;at Columbus North;L 30-13

Sept. 2;Seymour;W 56-30

Sept. 9;Jennings County;W 36-0

Sept. 16;at New Albany;W 56-15

Sept. 23;at Floyd Central;W 49-14

Sept. 30;Madison;W 49-0

Oct. 8;Jeffersonville (at Lucas Oil);W 56-14

Oct. 14;at Bedford North Lawrence;W 62-24

Sectional

Oct. 21;at New Palestine;W 35-7

Oct. 28;Martinsville;W 49-9

Nov. 4;Whiteland;W 56-31

Regional

Nov. 11;at Zionsville;W 42-35

Semistate

Nov. 28;at Bloomington South;W 35-15

TOURNEY HISTORY

COLUMBUS EAST
STATE FINALS: 1979 (3A),
2013 (4A), 2016 (5A)
STATE TITLES: 1979 (3A),
2013 (4A)

WESTFIELD
STATE FINALS: 1992 (2A),
2013 (5A), 2016 (5A)
STATE TITLES: None

Author photo
Ted Schultz is sports editor for The Republic. He can be reached at tschultz@therepublic.com or 812-379-5628.