Friday was family day at Hoosier Sporting Goods.
Members of the Columbus East football family anxiously picked up nearly 300 T-shirts, long-sleeve shirts or hooded sweatshirts — all ablaze in orange — so they could be decked out in school colors for today’s 7:05 p.m. state championship football game between the No. 4 (13-1) Olympians and No. 5 Westfield Shamrocks (11-2) at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
More specifically, players’ families were gearing up for the game with fan attire — especially parents and grandparents.
Al and Jeannie Sitterding said their connection to East football started when their son, Tim, played three years on the team through 1994. Fast forward to the next generation, and the Sitterdings’ 15-year-old grandson is now playing for the Olympians. Sophomore Jacob Sitterding is a reserve lineman for Columbus East.
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The Sitterdings, who were among the first to pick up “Columbus East 2016 State Bound Olympians” sweatshirts at Hoosier Sporting Goods on Friday morning, will be attending the game with eight other family members to conclude another successful season for the Olympians.
“It’s good for the team and good for the town and good for the kids,” Al Sitterding said.
The couple said they attend every game in which their grandson plays, regardless of the weather. And since tonight’s game is indoors, unlike the rain-drenched semistate last week at Bloomington South, weather won’t be a factor in this one.
“I hope they win. But if they don’t, they got this far,” Jeannie Sitterding said.
When it comes to grandsons playing in state championship football games, however, Judy Wichman surely has bragging rights.
Wichman is making her second state championship trip to Lucas Oil Stadium as a spectator in the past four years.
Her grandson, sophomore cornerback Jonah Wichman, will be the third one she will see play in a state championship game, she said.
One of Jonah’s brothers, Christian, was a linebacker and saw spot duty at running back as a senior for the 2013 state champion Olympians, who beat Fort Wayne Bishop Dwenger. Noah Wichman, then a sophomore, was a cornerback on the 2013 team.
The oldest Wichman brother, B.T., who played mostly safety for East, graduated the year before the Olympians won the 2013 title.
“We don’t miss a game,” said Judy Wichman, brimming with excitement about the 2016 squad. “They’ve had an unbelievable year.”
But championship-shirt pickup wasn’t just for grandparents.
Melissa Streeval picked up a sweatshirt for her 14-year-old son, Justin, who played on the freshman football team this season. Both parents will be joining an optimistic Justin in the stands tonight.
“His goal is state championship all four years,” Streeval said.
Mike Bodart, Hoosier Sporting Goods owner, said his store received 105 orders from the public for 275 specially made shirts tied to East’s championship run.
The Columbus East football team will take on Westfield for the Class 5A championship at 7:05 p.m. today at Lucas Oil Stadium, 500 S. Capitol Ave., Indianapolis. State championship games are expected to start at their listed time.
Here are some tips if you are heading to the game.
What you can and can’t bring:
Lucas Oil Stadium will have the same rules for spectators during high school games as it does for NFL games. Bags must be clear and be no larger than 12-inches-by-6-inches-by-12-inches, or a small, hand-sized bag. Prohibited items include weapons, food, liquids, noisemakers, any object that could be used as a missile; and objects that would obstruct another guest’s view of the playing surface — such as large signs. A full list is available at lucasoilstadium.com/visitors/faqs.aspx under facility services.
Security measures: Visitors will be checked by security. Jackets, bags and containers may be inspected as well. Stadium officials advise fans to arrive early enough to leave extra time for going through security.
Where to park: Parking is available in the stadium parking lot on the southeast side of the stadium. Other nearby parking lots include Gate Ten Events & Parking, 343 S. McCarty St.; Pan Am Plaza Garage, 201 S. Capitol Ave.; and Capital Improvement Board Lot 3, 350 W. South St.
The final opportunity to purchase tickets in advance for tonight’s Class 5A state championship football game between Columbus East and Westfield is 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. today before the Franklin Central at Columbus East girls basketball game.
Cost: $15 for all students and adults; children who are not school-age are admitted free. Columbus East gets to keep $1 of each advance ticket sold. Tickets will also be available at Lucas Oil Stadium for the 7:05 p.m. football game.
A Columbus East fan caravan is planned for today with participants asked to arrive at the high school’s bus lot no later than 3:15 p.m. The caravan will depart from the high school at 3:30 p.m. and follow the football team bus to Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
The Columbus East Quarterback Club has organized an Olympian Tailgate Party at the Gate Ten Event Center, located across the street from Lucas Oil Stadium.
- Parking, with 700 spaces, opens at 10 a.m. today, with a $15 parking fee for cars and $30 for a bus or recreational vehicle, payable with a credit card. Reserve parking online by visiting this address: https://squareup.com/store/GateTen
- The Gate Ten Event Center, at 343 W. McCarty St., opens at 3 p.m. It is a 7,500-square-foot indoor event space that offers the opportunity to purchase food or drinks at its bar and food court, with tables for seating and restrooms available.
East fans are invited to set up their own tailgating in the parking lot, or come inside the building.
If you can’t attend the Class 5A championship football game in person in Indianapolis, it will be broadcast on Fox Sports Indiana. The game can also be seen on a delayed basis at ihssatv.org.
Win or lose, the Columbus East football team will celebrate its 2016 football season when it returns to Columbus after tonight’s Class 5A championship game — about 11:30 p.m. in the main gymnasium. The high school is located at 230 S. Marr Road.