ARCADIA, Ind. -- Grant Weatherford got the Hamilton Heights High School football team off to a fast start Friday night against Mishawaka Marian, returning a punt 60 yards for a touchdown just 2:10 into the game. Then the hosts' offense and defense did the rest.
The Class 3A fourth-ranked Huskies controlled the line of scrimmage and dominated both sides of the ball, jumping on top of the Knights by 21 points at halftime and rolling 42-13 to capture the school's first semistate football championship. The win puts Hamilton Heights in the Class 3A state title game on Nov. 24 against either No. 3 Chatard or Gibson Southern at noon in Lucas Oil Stadium.
The Huskies (13-1) rolled up 360 yards of offense -- 183 on the ground, 177 through the air -- while the defense forced three turnovers and shutdown a normally powerful Mishawaka option attack. The Knights (10-4) ran for 193 yards on 41 carries, but 80 of those came on a Tyran Ottbridge run with Heights up 28-0. Running back Michael Whitfield and quarterback Vince Ravotto -- who'd combined for more than 2,000 yards on the ground entering the game -- managed just 22 on 28 carries.
"We worked a lot on stopping the option and we also felt we could stop anything inside the tackles," said Heights defensive lineman Andre Porter, who was in on two sacks. "We've got two pretty good outside defensive linemen and two good inside ones."
After Weatherford's punt return, the Heights defense forced a punt and then drove 73 yards in just six plays, with the drive capped by Cody Faulkner's 28-yard run. Hamilton Heights' offense would bog down on its next possession, but with 1:37 to go in the half, Ethan Englehardt tipped a pass away from a Mishawaka Marian receiver, and Weatherford made a diving catch for the interception, giving the Huskies possession at its own 27.
The hosts rode Faulkner down the field again, as the junior carried three times for 48 yards, taking his team down to the Marian 18. Two plays later, Corey Beck hit Spencer Dull on as slant from 14 yards out, giving the Huskies a 21-0 lead just before the end of the half.
Beck -- who was an efficient 13 of 16 passing for 177 yards -- hit Englehardt from 38 yards out early in the third to push the lead to 28-0, and Faulkner (17 carries, 187 yards) added touchdown runs of 2 and 45 yards in the second half.
"I thought we played pretty well in all three facets of the game," Hamilton Heights coach Mitch Street said. "We felt like we had a chance to get where we are now. But I'm not sure many people outside of our program thought we could. "