The Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference has provided 10 of the last 12 football State champions in the largest class the IHSAA has to offer. After Warren Central (10-3) and Carmel (10-3) face-off against each other in the 6A State championship contest Saturday night at Lucas Oil Stadium, an eleventh team will be deemed the State’s best in the class. The challenge the conference brings, on a week-in and week-out basis, is exactly why Warriors Head Coach Jayson West, who’s Warren Central squad finished fourth in the regular season, seemed to enjoy his rookie year in the conference so much.
“It was awesome,” said West with a smile. “I don’t know if there’s any other schedule in the country that is better than that, and what you have to go-to top to bottom. It was great because you get to see class coaches, great schemes, great players, and you get to see the best of the best ever week. That was stressful as a coach because you know you might not win any games ever, but you also have a chance to be great and do something that other teams couldn’t. Which is to beat a perennial power or a national power, so it’s a great challenge. I enjoyed it a lot.”
Though it will be plenty of fresh faces that haven’t competed in the State championship game, the Warren Central program and Head Coach Jayson West are no strangers to playing at Lucas Oil Stadium on Thanksgiving weekend. Warren Central is 7-0 in State championship games, with the last coming in a double-overtime classic at the hands of Carmel 42-36 in 2009. Coach West on the other hand will be coaching in his third State championship game, and was the Head Coach of Lawrence Central when they defeated Fort Wayne Snider 39-14 in 2012. Still, West was pleasantly surprised that he and the program would be back in the title game so quickly.
“You create your own expectations,” said West, who could become the sixth coach to win a State championship at two schools.
“The expectation is to always be in position to make a run at these types of programs when you have the conference you are in, the culture you have, the facilities, and the abilities you have, you are always going to have that expectation. Was it the first year? I don’t know, we had to see where it went. Not a lot of returning starters, third head coach in three years, so you had a lot of dynamic things going on there. Luckily we got it harnessed as a coaching staff, as a group of players and it’s been beneficial for us in a lot of different ways.”
After finishing 4-3 in the MIC during the regular season, the Warriors were able to avenge two of those losses along their way to the State championship game. The Warriors defeated Pike 24-21 on the road in the Regional championship, and defeated Center Grove 12-7 in a heavyweight slugfest at home. In the contest the Warriors held a Center Grove squad that was averaging 40 points per game to just 186 total yards on the night, thanks to a defense that has only allowed 17.3 points per game on the season. Warren Central’s defense has plenty of standouts, including Junior defensive back Mykelti Williams (72 tackles, 2 interceptions, 1 forced fumble), Senior lineman/kicker Max Herndandez (55 tackles, 7.5 sacks), and Senior linebacker Katrelll Moss (141 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 interception).
“He is maybe the best football player I have ever coached,” said West about Katrell Moss.
“He maybe not as talented as a Tre Roberson or when you get to those big-time players, but he is a talented soul, a talented person, and the best linebacker in Indiana. I have not seen one better, and if there is than no offense, but how he plays and the mojo he brings. He has good football IQ, he has a nose for the ball, and he would die for his teammates. he is that guy. He tore his ACL last year in Semi-State wrestling, and he didn’t even wince about it. He said ‘I’m alright, I’m going to wrestle next week’ and he did, he won his first round match and placed in the state with a torn ACL. He had surgery, didn’t practice all summer camp, and five months later he is in a game against Center Grove six months later. So he is a pretty phenomenal young man, kid, and a phenomenal story.”
On the offensive side of the ball the Warriors have been able to put some points on the board against the hardest defenses to play against in the State, averaging 25.2 points per game. Senior quarterback Jeff George leads the way with 1,1723 yards passing and 18 TD’s on the season spread among four wide receivers that can make plays, and the rushing attack is spearheaded by Junior Tirone Young (6 TD’s, 59.9 yards per game) and Senior Adrian Smith (6 TD’s, 30.6 yards per game).
Both sides of the ball will have to be rolling along for the Warriors on Saturday night, if they hope to defeat the one team they haven’t avenged a loss against yet in Carmel. Carmel defeated Warren Central 21-15 back in week-seven of the regular season, and the Greyhounds took down the #1 team in both polls of Class 6A in Penn by the final of 28-13 in the Semi-State championship game.
“They are very good,” said West. “They play great defense, they have good special teams, and there offense just keeps on getting better every week. They really nailed down who they are, what they are, and they aren’t in an identity crisis anymore. They are more dangerous than they have ever been, and we know that. So we really have to play our best ball to get a win.”
The Class 6A State championship between Warren Central and Carmel kicks off Saturday night at Lucas Oil Stadium at 7:05.