Vince Lorenzano barely recognized his team in the first 13 minutes of Saturday's Class 3A high school football championship game.
The veteran Bishop Chatard coach has grown accustomed to the Trojans' slow starts. So much so that he wasn't sure how to take Chatard's early 16-point lead at Lucas Oil Stadium. "We don't normally get out of the gate very quick," Lorenzano said. "If fact, that may have hurt us (in the second half)." Chatard (13-2) slugged it out in the second half, capturing its third consecutive 3A title and 12th overall with a 30-13 win. Pete Hartley rushed for 172 yards and a touchdown and Sam Neighbours passed 159 yards and two scores. There will be no chance for a fourth consecutive title, at least not in 3A; the Trojans will move up to 4A for the next two years under the Indiana High School Athletic Association's new tournament success factor. "I think if you ask any of these guys, they'll want to play 4A," said Hartley, a senior who rushed for more than 2,000 yards this season. Hamilton Heights (13-2) could do nothing right in the early part of the game. The Huskies, averaging more than 43 points a game coming in, had just three first downs and 54 yards of offense in the first half. Hamilton Heights looked like a team playing in its first state championship game. "I think the atmosphere got to us a little bit," said Hamilton Heights coach Mitch Street. "The first seven minutes of that game were some of the worst that we've played." The second half was far more competitive. Hamilton Heights took the second half kickoff and marched down the field, cutting the Chatard lead to 16-6 on a 33-yard pass from Corey Beck to Landon Cunningham. However, the Huskies were unable to sustain a drive on their following possession with a chance to pull closer. That was the story of the afternoon; Hamilton Heights finished with 218 yards of offense, nearly 150 below its season average. Chatard was particularly focused on sophomore receiver Grant Weatherford, adjusting his coverage to his location on the field. Weatherford, who came in with 733 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns, was limited to 59 yards on eight receptions. "We were keying him the whole game," said Chatard receiver and safety Joe Fagan, who caught a 33-yard touchdown pass in the first half. "I called the strength of the defense to him." Chatard went ahead 23-6 early in the fourth quarter on a 9-yard touchdown pass from Neighbours to Henry Hill on fourth-and-1. Hamilton Heights cut it to 23-13 on a 12-yard pass from Beck to Spencer Dull with 3:55 left, but the game was effectively over when Stan Jackson fell on a fumble in the end zone for Chatard with 1:22 remaining. "It was a slugfest," Lorenzano said. "Up front they gave us a lot of trouble, but we were resilient and kept fighting through difficult times. We played a great team game." It is the second time in program history that Chatard has won three consecutive finals, matching the run from 2001-03. "Definitely satisfying," Hartley said. "This was our goal from the beginning of the season. To see it end like this is very satisfying."
Bishop Chatard 30, Hamilton Heights 13 First Quarter BC--Sadler 27 yard field goal, 8:14 BC--Hartley 45 yard run (Sadler kick), 5:48 Second Quarter BC--Fagan 33 yard pass from Neighbors (kick failed), 11:18 Third Quarter HH--L. Cunningham 33 yard pass from Beck (2-point conversion failed), 9:41 Fourth Quarter BC--Hill 9 yard pass from Neighbors (Sadler kick), 10:21 HH--Dull 12 yard pass from Beck (Engelhardt kick), 3:55 BC--Jackson end zone fumble recovery (Sadler kick), 1:22