End of the journey

INDIANAPOLIS — Columbus East had the bigger yardage numbers Saturday night.

Westfield had Will Harrison and a bend-but-don’t-break defense.

Those factors helped the Shamrocks claim their first state football championship, a 16-13 victory in the 5A title game that denied the Olympians their third crown.

Harrison kicked three field goals — all from 40 yards or longer. But it was Westfield’s only touchdown, a 4-yard run by Nate Froelich in the third quarter, that proved to be the winning points.

That was the only scoring the entire second half.

Class 5A No. 4 East looked like it might regain the lead when it faced a fourth-and-goal at the Westfield 1 with just more than 2 minutes left in the third quarter. But after a false start backed up the Olympians to the 6, the field goal unit came on.

East hadn’t kicked a field goal all season. But with Sam Thomasson lined up for a 23-yarder, holder Jonah Wichman fielded a high snap. Instead of putting the ball down, he got up, rolled to his right and was knocked out of bounds for a 2-yard loss.

“It probably was good decision because any time you have a delay like that, as hard as they were coming to block it, like they blocked that first extra point, we didn’t want to risk a block and a scoop for a score,” East coach Bob Gaddis said. “We didn’t make that many mistakes, but that was one we made.”

The Olympians (13-2) had the extra point blocked following their first touchdown early in the second quarter. That score, which followed a 52-yard field goal by Harrison, came on a 32-yard pass from Josh Major to Caleb Voelker.

After two more Harrison field goals, the Shamrocks (12-2) looked like they would go to the locker room with a 9-6 lead. But with East facing a third-and-18 from its own 41, Jamon Hogan ran for 20 yards. After another 16-yard run by Hogan, the Olympians had it at the 14 with one second left.

Gaddis called for a reverse pass, but Westfield blitzed into it, and started to tackle Hogan. But before he went down, he was able to flip the ball to Caleb Voelker, who rolled to his right and threw to a wide open Tyler Thomas in the end zone.

“I saw their defense blitzing off the edge,” Hogan said. “They had me wrapped up, but we were going to half, and I still saw Caleb right there, so I just had to take a chance on it.”

East got the ball to start the second half but went three-and-out. The Shamrocks drove for the go-ahead score.

The Olympians then went on their fateful drive that ended at the 8.

“It was probably the best defense we’ve played against all year,” Major said. “They were very aggressive, athletic. We were able to move the ball at times, but we kind of shot ourselves in the foot after some long drives and just didn’t execute when we had to.”

Major completed 1 of 3 passes for the 32-yard touchdown. With Voelker’s scoring pass, both of East’s completions went for touchdowns.

Hogan carried 29 times for 145 yards, and Major added 90 yards on 22 carries. But Hogan’s 20-yard carry late in the first half was his longest of the night.

“It was really tough,” Hogan said. “We knew coming in that they were a good team. I just tried my hardest to find as many holes as I could and get as many yards as I could.”

Westfield coach Jake Gilbert compared the Olympians to some of the teams he sees in the Hoosier Crossroads Conference.

“We’re pretty darn good defensively,” Gilbert said. “We play great competition all year. (East) is a great football team, and they fit right (in with) some of the teams we’ve played.”

Gaddis couldn’t find fault with his team’s effort.

“I thought our kids played about as well as we could,” Gaddis said.

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