A column by Jason Scheele
The 2022 Carroll High School football season was a remarkable one for so many reasons.
The Chargers finished the regular season undefeated and won the SAC title for a second straight year.
They followed that up with a sectional title after wins over Penn and Warsaw.
A regional title followed with a dramatic, comeback victory over Lafayette Jefferson.
And, for the first time ever for a Class 6A team from the Fort Wayne area, Carroll punched its ticket to the state championship by shocking the top-rated team in the state in Hamilton Southeastern.
Add to that Coach Doug Dinan’s milestone 100th victory as a head coach, the myriad All-Conference and All-State nominations and the Mental Attitude Award given to Jorge Valdes and this season for Carroll was truly one to remember.
Most people will remember this Carroll team because of the titles, the trip to Lucas Oil Stadium, the school record 13 wins and the stellar individual performances; but my family and I will never forget this Carroll team and the 2022 season because it came in the wake of the sudden death of our son, Owen Scheele.
The 2022 season was supposed to be Owen’s year. He had been in the program three years and had worked on his game tirelessly to make the most of his opportunity to start as a senior. As a freshman, Owen was not a standout. He was a bit of a late bloomer and he had quite a few kids in front of him on the quarterback depth chart. In fact, there were times early on when we wondered if Owen would continue with football. There were nights during that freshman year filled with frustration caused by lack of playing time, poor performances in practice and even the time commitment required.
A lot of kids would have called it quits, but not Owen. Our son refused to give up. Instead, he channeled his frustrations to fuel his work ethic. He lived for practice, attended virtually every off-season workout offered and spent practically every free moment he had between his freshman and junior year at Optimum Performance Sports.
The work started to pay off and Owen really started to realize his potential. He was a skilled passer with exceptional arm talent. By the start of his junior year, he was more than capable of starting for most schools in this area. However, Owen was still second on the depth chart at Carroll. He was behind perhaps one of the greatest quarterbacks in the history of the program in Jeff Becker.
Many kids would have explored transferring to another school, but Owen never considered it. He was proud to be a Charger and relished working with Jeff. Still, Owen knew he would likely be watching from the sidelines his junior year.
He did sit for the most part, save for Week 2 against Snider. Thanks to COVID and the terribly ridiculous quarantine rules, Jeff was unable to play. Owen started his one and only varsity game and made the most of it. He played well and led the Chargers to a 29-28 win over a highly-ranked Snider team.
I remember watching that game and thinking about how great senior year would be when Owen would be QB1. As it turned out, that was not the plan that God had for our son.
On June 7, 2022, Owen succumbed to Chronic Myeloid Leukemia after a brief 44-hour battle. To say the least, my wife Stephanie and I were devastated.
On the way home from Riley Children’s Hospital that night, we were told that the team and Carroll students would be gathering at the stadium. To this day, I cannot say why, but my wife and I both felt like we needed to go. We did. It was gut-wrenching and therapeutic at the same time. We sobbed in the arms of Owen’s coaches, teammates and friends. We also felt an overwhelming wave of love and support from the dozens and dozens of people that had gathered to remember our son. It was an experience unlike any we had ever known.
We limped through the summer. We struggled to go to work. We struggled many times to leave the house. As summer came to a close and the football season approached, we discussed whether we would go to the games. We knew it would be excruciating to watch Carroll play without Owen taking the snaps. How could we sit through the games thinking about Owen missing his time to shine? How could we bear all the touching tributes without crumbling? How could we watch any other quarterback play for Carroll and not think it should be him?
Despite our doubts, we realized we needed to go, perhaps for the same reasons we felt we had to stop at the stadium the night Owen died.
We went to every single game. They were excruciating to watch, but the compassion of the Carroll community in the stands was incredible. On the field, we watched a team play inspired. We watched a team that refused to lose. We watched a team play for their fallen friend and teammate. We watched a team at a public high school kneel to pray at the conclusion of each game. What we watched was truly remarkable.
The run Carroll made during the 2022 season helped us heal. It helped us realize that while we know Owen is in a better place now, he is still with us. He can be seen in all the hard work this team put in at practice. He can be seen in the competitive fire that burned in the hearts of each of his teammates. He can be seen in the love and dedication that the Carroll coaching staff has for their
We could see Owen throughout this miraculous season, and it was a season we will never forget.
Jason Scheele is the father of the late Owen Scheele. We appreciate his candor and generosity in expressing his feelings from 2022 and the Carroll football season. May Owen always be remembered.