ZIONSVILLE – Ryan Pepiot worked his way around his circled-up high school football teammates, as Friday night had become Saturday morning, and joined his coach in the middle of the huddle.
The senior triumphantly hoisted the traveling Shining Star trophy that goes to the winner of Westfield and Zionsville’s annual meeting.
The Class 5A, No. 6 Shamrocks had just come off a wild 45-30 win over the host No. 8 Eagles(2-1) following a start delayed more than two hours because of lightning in the area, and the Westfield quarterback had much to celebrate.
Pepiot completed 16-of-25 passes with two touchdowns and no interceptions, and for good measure added 82 yards and a rushing touchdown on 14 carries.
“I don’t know a team in the Hoosier Crossroads Conference that doesn’t have a good quarterback and he’s right there at the top,” said Zionsville coach Pat Echeverria. “He made big plays for them.”
With other area quarterbacks getting much of the publicity, Pepiot has flown under the radar despite his strong play in guiding Westfield to a 3-0 start. And for good reason.
The 6-1, 218-pounder is also a hard-throwing right-handed pitcher who’s committed to play baseball next year for Butler.
“He would be in that group that is getting all that hype, but he just doesn’t have offers because he’s not available,” said Westfield coach Jake Gilbert, noting that college football coaches have inquired often about Pepiot.
This year, he’s completed 65 percent of his passes for an average of 234 yards per game with six touchdowns against two interceptions. Friday, he marched the Shamrocks down the field on their opening possession with a seven-play, 67-yard touchdown drive to give them a 7-0 lead. Three more times, he led Westfield on drives covering more than 60 yards.
Each time Zionsville struck back in the seesaw affair that saw each team alternate scores on the first 11 of the 12 scoring plays, Pepiot and the Shamrocks responded. He also made the Eagles pay for their four turnovers – two via interceptions by corner Martell Fletcher – with none more piercing than his one-play, 50-yard TD bomb to junior receiver Evan Manley to start the second quarter.
Zionsville had its own shining star in junior running back Brenden Mikesell, who broke out for 268 yards on 26 carries, with touchdown runs covering 9, 91 and 57 yards.
However, Westfield discovered its own running game in the second half, with Johnathan Swidan (12 carries, 93 yards, two TDs), Brandon Karsnick (21 carries, 95 yards, one TD) and Pepiot combining for 209 yards after managing just 61 on the ground in the first half.
After handing off the postgame trophy to a teammate, Pepiot talked about chasing a bigger award to close out his football career. Or at least, likely close it out. Though he talks about this being his final season, Pepiot hasn’t quite slammed the door on continuing at the gridiron position he’s played since kindergarten.
“I won’t say football is out of the equation, but right now, baseball is the best bet for me,” Pepiot said. “It’s crazy that it’s almost over. I have 11 games left to state. I’ve got to cherish every day I get this season. I love my guys. It’s going to be a hard day when it’s over, but hopefully we’ll be hoisting a state championship trophy at the end of the year.”
WESTFIELD 45, ZIONSVILLE 30
W – Brandon Karsnick 4 run (William Harrison kick)
Z – Brenden Mikesell 9 run (Ryan Stein kick)
W – Evan Manley 50 pass from Ryan Pepiot (Harrison kick)
Z – Mikesell 91 run (pass failed)
W – Lucas Schultz 23 pass from Pepiot (Harrison kick)
Z – 33 FG Stein
W – Pepiot 4 run (Harrison kick)
Z – Mikesell 57 run (Stein kick)
W – Johnathan Swidan 8 run (Harrison kick)
Z – John Ramsey Jr. 99 kickoff return (Stein kick)
W – Swidan 1 run (Harrison kick)
W – 39 FG Harrison
Rushing— Westfield: Swidan 12-93, Karsnick 21-95, Pepiot 14-82. Zionsville: Mikesell 26-268, Mattingly 2-5, Liechty 7-20.
Passing— Westfield: Pepiot 16-25-0 206. Zionsville: Liechty 15-29-2 145.
Receiving— Westfield: Schultz 4-48, M. McCool 6-60, Sears 3-30, Manley 1-50, Swidan 1-6, W. McCool 1-12. Zionsville: Mikesell 3-4, Mattingly 5-60, Anders 1-3, Hodge 2-26, Bishop 2-37, Ramsey Jr. 2-15.