In early November, the Eastbrook Panthers football team won their 16th sectional in school history.
Eastbrook dominated in the regular season, going 8-0, allowing only 45 points all year and winning their conference, the Central Indiana Conference.
They opened sectional play against Eastern (Greentown), who was at the time 7-2 and looked strong. The game was never in doubt, though, and had a running clock in the second half. Eastbrook dominated the running game with over 250 yards, winning 56-14.
Lapel was up next for the Panthers. They were another solid team sitting at 8-2 with their only losses to two of the best smaller schools in the state, Indianapolis Lutheran and Heritage Christian. They were no match for the Panthers. Eastbrook rushed for over 250 yards again in a 46-13 thrashing of Lapel.
This set up an exciting rematch between Eastbrook and Tipton from last year’s sectional semifinal where Tipton beat Eastbrook in a close battle. Tipton came into this year’s sectional final with a 10-1 record, dominating on the defensive side of the ball.
The whole game was a back-and-forth battle, neither team ever having more than a seven-point lead. The game came down to the last Eastbrook possession where they scored in the last minute to win the game, and the sectional, 28-21, avenging last year’s heartbreaking loss. It was also Head Coach Jeff Adamson’s 300th career win.
All good things must come to an end though, and for the Panthers, it came in regionals — the next round — against Eastside. Eastside was fresh off an upset win over tournament favorite Fort Wayne Bishop Luers and came out strong. The Panthers struggled to find an answer for Eastside’s offense but stayed in it due to multiple mistakes from Eastside. In the end, the scoreboard said 21-14 in favor of Eastside and the Panthers season ended.
In close games like the Tipton and Eastside games, a strong passing game is sometimes needed to make a difference down the stretch. It is something that not only helps the offense, but your defense as well.
“It is a disadvantage for Eastbrook’s defense to not be able to work on a passing game during the week,” former state runner-up Coach David Land said.
Eastside went on to lose in the semi-state round to Andrean in a 17-14 classic. Andrean would win the 2A state championship.
In all, it was still another successful season for Eastbrook. As a team, they rushed for over 3000 yards, led by sophomore Gage Engle.
Senior Jett Engle led the revamped passing game, throwing for over 1000 yards in a system not designed for passing.
“Running the ball wins a lot of games, but Jett brought a different dimension to our offense,” Adamson said.
It was not the only sectional title for a school in Grant County though. The Mississinewa Indians won their 7th sectional title in school history.
They came into one of the more competitive sectionals of the state where there was no clear favorite with a 7-2 record.
In the first round, they would shut out a struggling Jay County 49-0. Mississinewa would run for nearly 350 yards to dominate the game. The semifinal round would see the Indians travel to New Haven where they would win 42-27 and rush for an astounding 470 yards and six touchdowns.
The sectional final game against Wayne High School in Fort Wayne would be anything but ordinary.
Mississinewa would dominate the game, leading 42-6 in the fourth quarter when a brawl between the teams broke out. It started when a Mississinewa player hit a Wayne player from behind after a play and Wayne players went after the Mississinewa player. It all escalated from there as coaches and officials attempted to break the fight up. The game was called then and Mississinewa advanced. The cause for the fight is not known.
The Indians would suffer a similar fate to Eastbrook in the regional round against Northridge. Northridge would stop Mississinewa’s rushing attack all night long en route to a 25-7 win.
Northridge would go on to be the runner-up in the 4A class state championship to Mt. Vernon (Fortville).