Caleb Pettit finally landed a starting spot as a senior at Columbus East, but his first postseason as a starting cornerback hasn’t exactly been kind to him.
Pettit sustained a high-ankle sprain in the sectional-opener at Seymour. He missed the Olympians’ second-round win against Bedford North Lawrence before returning for the sectional final at Floyd Central.
Sometime during that game or that week of practice — he isn’t sure when — Pettit developed a skin infection from turf burns on his elbow and knee. The elbow and knee swelled to the point where he couldn’t play.
“It was pretty bad,” Pettit said. “I really couldn’t even walk. That was pretty tough.”
Pettit couldn’t play in East’s regional win against Terre Haute North. But he was back on the field Friday night for the Olympians’ 42-13 semistate win against Cathedral.
Friday night, Pettit will be in the lineup when the Olympians face Kokomo in the Class 5A state finals at Lucas Oil Stadium.
“It was really hard because I’ve been working to get a starting spot since my sophomore year, and the year I finally get to do it, the most important games are some of the ones that I had to miss,” Pettit said. “That wasn’t fun for me, but (to) come back and play in semistate and the state games is awesome because those injuries could have been a lot worse than what they were.”
Pettit was a backup safety and played on special teams last year. He had been a cornerback in middle school and as a freshman and sophomore at East.
So when coaches moved linebacker Julian Greenwell to safety this season, Pettit talked to head coach Bob Gaddis and defensive coordinator Eddie Vogel about moving back to corner.
“I just told them I’d do whatever it took to get on the field,” Pettit said. “I tried out corner, and it ended up working better than safety, so I decided to stay out there.”
With returning starter Jonah Wichman firmly entrenched at the other cornerback spot, Pettit competed for the remaining vacant job. He won the spot following East’s preseason scrimmage at Martinsville.
Gaddis calls Pettit a “program guy.”
“He’s just been around the whole time and got his opportunity to compete for a starting spot this year,” Gaddis said. “Caleb worked his tail end off, and we’re really proud of him for doing that. Not only is he a good player, he’s a really good kid. He’s a good leader in our building. He’s a great example.”
Pettit, who also is a three-year letterman in track, is considering playing college football. He has talked with coaches at Manchester, Earlham and Franklin colleges and wants to major in business marketing and sales.
But first, Pettit has the biggest game of his career on the state’s biggest stage. And he’s as healthy as he’s ever been.
“The team has to stay focused on the game rather than the environment, but it’s going to be fun out there,” Pettit said. “We just have to play as a team again like we have been all season and just carry all the success we’ve been having over to the state game.”
IHSAA Football State Finals
at Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis
Class A: Eastern Greene (11-3) vs. Pioneer (14-0), noon (Fox Sports Indiana)
Class 3A: Evansville Memorial (13-1) vs. Brebeuf Jesuit (10-4), 3:30 p.m. (Fox Sports Indiana)
Class 5A: Columbus East (13-1) vs. Kokomo (9-4), 7:05 p.m. (Fox Sports Indiana Plus)
Class 2A: Southridge (12-2) vs. Woodlan (12-2), noon (Fox Sports Indiana)
Class 4A: East Central (11-3) vs. Lowell (14-0), 3:30 p.m. (Fox Sports Indiana)
Class 6A: Ben Davis (13-0) vs. Penn (12-1), 7:05 p.m. (Fox Sports Indiana Plus)
Tickets: $15 per day. Available at Columbus East High School athletics office from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday.
Name: Caleb Pettit
School: Columbus East
Key stats: 25 tackles, four passes deflected