We have to start with “The Play.”
Trailing by one following Christian Summersett’s 2-yard touchdown run with 90 seconds remaining, South Adams coach Grant Moser did not waste any time making the call to go for two.
“It wasn’t a decision at all,” said Moser about the call. “We talked about it even before the game if we were in position like that late if we would go for 1 or 2, we were going to go with what got us here.”
Summersett told Moser to give him the ball and he would get in. Moser obliged.
South Adams lined up in a full house backfield, with Summersett the deep back with Nick Miller and Timmy Davidson right behind James Arnold. There is just a single receiver on the field, Drew Stutzman in the slot.
Covenant Christian identifies the likelihood of a run and lines up with four down linemen and two edge rushers on the side that South Adams will run to.
Basically, the Warriors have already diagnosed the play pre-snap based on the formation.
South Adams ran the same play out of this formation earlier in the second half. Summersett was able to turn the corner and gain around 10 inside the red zone. But this time, Covenant Christian is ready.
At the snap, five of six Covenant Christian players up front engage, but the linebackers and defensive backs freeze to be sure where the ball is going.
Arnold fakes the inside give to Miller and then flips to Summersett. This fake to Miller fools no one, and it takes South Adams’ most physical runner and skill position blocker out of the play.
Summersett has a choice to make. He can pursue the edge of the end zone, he can cut it inside or he can wait to see if a hole opens up as he runs laterally.
Unfortunately, there are zero clear options. Covenant Christian players have gotten off their blocks on the perimeter and are waiting for Summersett. Davidson is never able to engage as the lead blocker and the defender gets behind him. Stutzman is prepared to block if Summersett elects to go to the outside, but Summersett commits by cutting upfield.
The back-side pursuit is exceptional. That coupled with Warriors players getting off their blocking attempts means that Summersett has his work cut out for him to try and make it to the end zone.
Summersett appears to have a shot as he sidesteps a tackle, but a Covenant Christian defensive lineman in pursuit hammers the senior around the two. While Summersett has the body to bowl over smaller players, he is has no shot against the bigger lineman.
A gang tackle ends all chances of the Starfires converting.
Hindsight is undefeated, but would South Adams have had a better shot at converting had it gone spread? Being so close to the end zone actually limits what the Starfires do offensively.
Could South Adams have gone four wide with Summersett in to protect and given the shot to Arnold? The senior QB could have had the option to throw, or even a QB draw, a play we had not seen all game and may have caught Covenant Christian unaware.
PLAYING FOR OT
Some questioned the decision to go for two, saying South Adams should have tied the game up with an extra point and taken its chances in overtime.
However, there was still 1:30 left in regulation. Covenant Christian had time to move down the field, and Jackson Brough had already proven himself with a pair of field goals.
The Warriors had already scored in the game on drives of 35 seconds, 44 seconds and 54 seconds, so there was plenty of time, coupled with timeouts, to put a drive together and win in regulation.
Also, high school overtime rules favored Covenant Christian. Both teams get the ball at the 10-yard-line and have four downs to score. The Warriors’ running attack had found its stride once again late after being bottled up in the third quarter. The running game had notched over 250 yards at that point.
Meanwhile, South Adams’ running attack had been inconsistent at best, and the Starfires’ long-range passing game would be limited due to the ball being at the 10.
Point being, South Adams likely had a more difficult road to a win had the game went into overtime.
ARNOLD’S BIG DAY
It was small consolation, but not only did James Arnold put up a record-breaking stat line, he was also awarded with the Mental Attitude Award following the game.
The valedictorian of South Adams in his class, Arnold was welcome by his family in the immediate aftermath of the game to accept the award.
Arnold looked disappointed with the defeat of course, but he turned plenty of heads, throwing for a Class 1A title game record 480 yards, breaking the record of 423 yards formerly held by Ross Hendrickson of Cardinal Ritter set in 2008.
Arnold was just 21 yards off the all-time passing mark of 501, held by Alex Neligh of New Palestine in that epic 2015 final against Snider, which the Panthers won 64-61.
It felt like the entirety of the city of Berne showed out at Lucas Oil Stadium to root on the Starfires. Fans began lining up outside of the gates nearly an hour before they opened.
It was great to see the support from everyone involved with South Adams football. It truly was a special run to the state championship game. Win or lose, the memories will last a lifetime.