INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Things went south in a hurry for East Central after a promising first half in Saturday afternoon’s IHSAA Class 4A title game at Lucas Oil Stadium.
The Trojans went into halftime with a 3-0 lead over Bishop Dwenger, winners of 13 straight games.
East Central had just registered six straight scoreless quarters versus two of Indiana’s top Catholic schools – Dwenger and Roncalli. But that success would be short-lived as the Saints capitalized on turnovers and used their dominance to deny East Central its first ring since 1994.
East Central couldn't stop Dwenger running back Amaun Clark and they couldn't mount an offense and that sums up how they lost, 27-3, in their bid for the school's second state title.
“They were really quick and athletic up front and we knew that. They won the battle in the trenches,” East Central head coach Justin Roden stated about the performance of Dwenger’s line play.
“The results of this game don’t have that much impact on how much value it has on our community to see all these people come out who haven’t been out to see East Central in a number of years, giving these guys the credit they deserve,” a proud Roden stated about the community support for his players.
Nick Stidham's 21-yard field goal gave East Central a 3-0 lead and the Trojans kept it close, trailing only 7-3 after three quarters. But after Clark's second TD made it 14-3, the Trojans had two turnovers at desperation time and Dwenger turned both into TDs.
Clark, a 5-6 junior running back, scored three TDs on runs of 24, 4 and 11 yards. Coming in, Clark had run for 1,719 yards and 22 touchdowns.
Both teams struggled mightily on offense in the first half. Dwenger opened the game with an extended drive that lasted more than half the stanza. The Saints would be stopped on fourth down and never prosper the rest of the half. That included two interceptions by quarterback Blake Podschlne.
East Central had the only scoring drive of the first half. The Trojans went 85 yards on 14 plays but could not penetrate the end zone and had to settle for Stidham's field goal. It was the only score before intermission.
East Central looked out of sync on the opening drive to start the second half. They punted from inside their own 10 yard line after penalties and sacks sent them backward. It would be an omen of the Trojans' misfortunes to come.
Dwenger returned East Central’s punt to the Trojans 32. Four plays later, Clark took a handoff from Podschlne and scampered 24 yards for a touchdown on fourth-and-2. It gave the Saints their first lead at 7-3 and at that point the Dwenger offensive line began winning the war in the trenches.
After forcing an East Central punt, the Saints would go 91 yards on nine plays. Clark finished it off from 4 yards out with 9:17 left in the fourth quarter.
An interception by Dwenger’s Austin Burns gave the Saints the ball on the East Central 23. Four plays later, Clark would find the end zone from 11 yards out for a third time in the second half. He ended his evening with 236 yards on 23 carries.
Things went from bad to worse for the Trojans as Luke Patton was intercepted again. It gave Dwenger the ball on the East Central 32. Three plays later, Podschlne would sneak into the end zone from a yard out. The only thing left was the crowning of the Saints after the final ticks of the clock.
“Our defense kept giving us a chance and our offense finally hit its stride in the second half,” Dwenger interim head coach Ernie Bojrab said. It was the fourth state championship for Dwenger and first since 1991.
EAST CENTRAL 0-3-0-0-3
vs. BISHOP DWENGER 0-0-7-20-27
E: Stidham 21 field goal
B: Clark 24 run (Buenconsejo kick)
B: Clark 4 run (Buenconsejo kick)
B: Clark 11 run (Buenconsejo kick)
B: Podschlne 1 run (kick blocked)
Records: East Central (12-3); Bishop Dwenger (14-1)