East Central football coach Justin Roden took his players on a field trip Wednesday. But it wasn’t an ordinary field trip.
The Trojans made a visit to the Indianapolis Colts’ home field at Lucas Oil Stadium, site of Saturday’s 3:30 p.m. Indiana Class 4A high school state championship game pitting East Central against Fort Wayne Bishop Dwenger.
The Trojans (12-2) are seeking their first state title since 1994 when they take on Bishop Dwenger (13-1). The championship drought is older than the players on the East Central football team, many of whom had yet to see the 67,000-seat stadium in Indianapolis.
“A lot of our guys haven’t been to Lucas Oil Stadium, so they were a little starstruck,” Roden said. “We had an average practice, but we got that out of the way.”
The Trojans, big-school champions of the Eastern Indiana Athletic Conference, are ranked ninth in the statewide coaches’ poll. They have one state title in program history, with their sights set on another.
“We were runner-up in 1993. We won it the next year, so we had a nice little run there that we’d like to enjoy again,” said Roden.
Preparedness is a big key, the coach said. Execution will be pivotal against third-ranked Dwenger, going for a fourth state crown.
“A big thing for us Saturday is taking care of what we do,” said Roden, a former Oak Hills assistant. “It’s a matter of handling all the distractions that come with being in the state final, including the travel and where we play.”
Leading the way is the playmaking defense, spearheaded by linebackers Hunter Armstrong and Dusty Ward, and a multi-dimensional offense under the direction of dual-threat quarterback Luke Patton. The senior has rushed for 1,712 yards and passed for 1,404, with a hand in 42 touchdowns (33 rushing). He’s the first East Central quarterback to have 1,000 yards passing and 1,000 yards rushing in a season twice.
“Everything goes through him,” Roden said. “He decides where the play goes, and he’s done a nice job getting us into spots.”
Patton runs on average about 18 times per game with 14 passing attempts. His top receiver is senior Nolan Moser, who caught 47 passes for 780 yards (16.6 average). Senior tailback Doug Rosemeyer rushed for 1,442 yards (7.1 average) with 14 touchdowns.
The coach said both lines need to hold their own against bigger groups for Dwenger. “They have a substantial size advantage up front, so we really have to battle in the trenches,” said Roden. “Their offense uses the run to set up the pass, so we want to prevent the big play and force them to drive the ball.”