Every sports fan has heard the cliche.
Offense is what pleases the fans; defense is what wins championships.
That was certainly true of Eastern’s 12-8 win over Indianapolis Luthern Friday night.
The Thunderbirds held Lutheran (11-3) to 300 yards for the game. The Saints’ runners got much of that yardage on reverses. Lineman Nick Fox said it was difficult to stop those plays because Lutheran fielded a team of young Cyclopes on the O-line.
“Man, it was definitely tough,” Fox said. “They had a big line up front. It was the biggest line we’ve faced. We had to stop the reverses. Once we got those ... stopped, we knew we had it won.”
Jackson Rogers stopped one Lutheran drive in the first quarter with an interception around the 15. His fifth pick of the season set a new school record for career interceptions.
“It feels great,” he said of the pick
The turning point of the game may have been late in the first quarter when the Thunderbirds forced Lutheran quarterback Andre Jones to throw four incompletions after the Saints had driven to a first and 10 on the Eastern 20 with about one minute left on the clock. Caleb Hamilton leveled Bailly Barham to break up the third pass. The Saints led only 8-0 at the break and Eastern scored two touchdowns in the second half to pull out the win.
Blayne Campbell recovered a fumble on the Eastern 22 after the Saints had driven to a third and 4 on the Thunderbird 16 with 6:03 on the clock. During the huddle, he said he told his teammates they had to make something happen. The ball popped loose and Campbell dove on it in what he called the “craziest” play. The Thunderbirds drove for the winning touchdown after that, and Campbell was elated to be going to the state championship game.
“I’ve never felt something like that,” he said.
The Thunderbirds have given up only 170 points this season, holding their foes to 12.1 points per game. That figure is even more impressive when you realize that they gave up 44 points in the season’s first game with Springs Valley.
“The defense won that game for us,” head coach Joey Paridaen said. “I think it’s impressive what our whole team has done.”
Senior receiver/defensive back Joel Weimer was definitely a believer in Eastern’s success. At one point during the second half, he was walking down the sideline, shouting words of encouragement to his teammates. He turned to me and said: “We’re going to take this.”
He was right.
After the game, I bumped into Eastern head basketball coach Jon Neill who was celebrating the victory. Eastern has had to postpone its first few basketball games because of the drive to Lucas Oil.
I told him: “At this point, you guys won’t be playing until Christmas.”
“I don’t care,” was his response.
Eastern wasn’t the only team that impressed me over the weekend.
North Knox has been a powerhouse in girls basketball for at least 30 years. Bloomfield gave the Lady Warriors (6-2) all they wanted Saturday night before falling 45-44. Makinzi Meurer hit a free throw with no time on the clock after Bloomfield’s Malea Toon appeared to send the game into overtime with a three-pointer.
Bloomfield has a 4-2 record, and the Lady Cardinals are already far beyond where last year’s team was at this point. Bloomfield finished last year’s season 11-14 and went to the regional where they fell to a formidable Jac-Cen-Del team.
If †he Lady Cards continue to play like they did Saturday, they will have a winning season and may go beyond the first game of the regional.
We can only hope so.