Fans and local businesses are showing their support for the Columbus East football team heading into Friday’s 5A state championship game against Kokomo.

Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers, located at 3660 W. Jonathan Moore Pike, displayed a message outside the store for one of its employees, Jaedin Miller, and the East football team that read “Go Jaedin and Crew, Take State.” Miller has worked at the business since it opened last year, general manager Robin Tyner said.

Tyner described Miller, a cashier, as an employee who takes care of the restaurant’s guests when he comes to work every Sunday.

“He’s a great kid and a joy to have,” Tyner said. “I’ve had a bunch of kids work here and he’s one of my best.”

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Miller also is a standout on the field, with the running back picking up 720 yards so far this season on 119 carries – with 20 touchdowns, including two in last Friday’s 42-13 semistate victory against Cathedral.

There’s also a general feeling of excitement at the store, said Nelly Williams, a cook at the restaurant who has gotten to know Miller.

Williams, who plans to attend Friday’s game, said Miller is a great individual to work with and very determined.

He also gave Miller – a 5-7, 190-pound senior – some advice for game day.

“Play like it’s your last game,” Williams said. “We just hope they bring back home a state championship.”

Businesses of all types have jumped on the Olympian bandwagon.

MainSource Bank had an electronic marquee message, “Good Luck at State East!!! Beat the Kokomo Wildcats!”

The bank decided to display the message on an outdoor electronic sign to show its support the hometown team, branch manager Shanda Thayer said.

Picking up tickets

Business was brisk among Columbus East fans purchasing advance tickets for Friday’s game, East athletics director Pete Huse said.

The Columbus East athletics department sold 380 tickets in a few hours that sales were available during Monday’s first day, Huse said.

Interest picked up again Tuesday morning when sales resumed at 10:30 a.m., with 50 sold in the first eight minutes, he said.

East is expecting the biggest sales day to be Friday, when Huse anticipates 1,000 of the school’s 4,000-ticket allotment will be sold.

Fans showed similar support during last year’s state championship game, which East dropped to Westfield 16-13, he said.

“Everyone is fired up and ready to go,” Huse said. “It’s awesome of how the community backs us and we’re so appreciative of how they do that.”

Early buyers included Columbus resident Jan Wettschurack, who purchased four tickets and plans to go to the game with his wife Pat and two family friends. His two sons, Darrin and Erik, once played under East football coach Bob Gaddis, he said.

Wettschurack said he has been pleased with the team’s performance this year.

“They’ve come a long way,” he said.

Erin Miller, who also bought four tickets, said her husband Tony and their children Chloe, Abby and Brody are also planning to make the trip to Lucas Oil Stadium.

The twin girls are freshmen at East, while their 10-year-old brother Brody is a huge East football fan, Miller said.

Another fan, Bridgette Hutcheson, purchased nine tickets for herself, her husband, her parents and other family members. Hutcheson’s son, Matthew, is a freshman on the team.

“For my son to participate in all of this is pretty exciting,” Hutcheson said. “We’re very excited about the future.”

Sean Thomasson, an attorney at Thomasson, Thomasson, Long and Guthrie in downtown Columbus, said he’s planning to bring nine family members to the game. Thomasson’s son, Sam, is a junior kicker for Columbus East.

This week is extra special knowing that the family is gathering for Thanksgiving and the state championship game, Sean Thomasson said.

“It’s pretty exciting for everybody in the family with all the celebrations going on,” he said.

Thomasson also said the fact that East has made it to the state finals for a second straight year.

“It’s a quality program and it’s something you can brag about statewide now,” he said. “The community’s been fantastic.”

Placing game-gear orders

Fans also were eager to invest in team gear to show their colors – orange, of course.

Demand for Columbus East state championship team gear through Hoosier Sporting Goods was slightly ahead of last year’s orders for T-shirts, V-neck apparel and sweatshirts, a store representative said Tuesday afternoon.

About 275 custom-made shirts were ordered last year through the partnership with the Columbus East Quarterback Club, and this year’s final total will be slightly higher, the store representative said.

In fact, demand Tuesday morning was so strong that the online order deadline was extended an hour to 1 p.m. This year’s biggest sellers were short- and long-sleeve cotton T-shirts.

Buyers will be able to pick up their East clothing orders in person Friday at Hoosier Sporting Goods between 9 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. so they can be worn to the 7:05 p.m. state championship game. The store is located at 611 Washington St. in downtown Columbus.

If you go

Columbus East will play Kokomo at 7:05 p.m. Friday in the Class 5A final at Lucas Oil Stadium, 500 S. Capitol Ave., Indianapolis.

When, where to get tickets

General admission tickets for Columbus East’s Football State Finals game against Kokomo are on sale this week in the athletics department office of East High School, 230 S. Marr Road. East will keep a portion of the proceeds from each pre-sale ticket sold.

Today: 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 5 to 7 p.m.

Friday: 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Cost: $15, good for all three championship games Friday.

  • Class 1A: Pioneer (14-0) vs. Eastern Greene (11-3), noon
  • Class 3A: Brebeuf Jesuit (10-4) vs. Evansville Memorial (13-1), 3:30 p.m.
  • Class 5A: Kokomo (9-4) vs. Columbus East (13-1), 7 p.m.

Team sendoff, caravan, tailgate party

The Columbus East Quarterback Club is inviting fans to join them Friday near the East fieldhouse for a team sendoff and caravan behind the team buses as they have a police escort out of Columbus. Fans are invited to decorate their cars, bring noise makers, pompoms and signs, and cheer for the Olympians as they head to the buses. Arrive by 3:15 p.m.

The official Olympian State Championship Tailgate Party will be held at the heated Gate Ten Event Center, 343 W. McCarty St., Indianapolis, across from Lucas Oil Stadium. Food and drink will be available in the food court. Cost to park is $15. Order parking passes in advance at goindyevents.com

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Matt Kent is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at 812-379-5712 or mkent@therepublic.com