Indy adventure stirs players, supporters alike

Dave Weatherwax/The Herald
Zach Beckman of Jasper, right, got in the face of Jasper’s Collin Bowlin  before the start of Saturday’s game against Vincennes Lincoln at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. Beckman, a former student manager for the Wildcats, was selected as Jasper’s representative in a halftime dance-off contest against a Vincennes Lincoln fan. He was declared the champ as fans from each school cast their votes  for the winner via cheers. For a gallery of photos, click here.

By JOE JASINSKI
Herald Sports Writer

INDIANAPOLIS — Zach Beckman waited patiently at midfield as Lucas Oil Stadium reduced to a hush.

Finally, the music began playing and Beckman brought the house down, dancing with enough spark to power the 67,000-seat arena in which he now was grooving. The Jasper crowd erupted as Beckman, a former student manager who has Down syndrome, carried on with his impromptu routine, and furthermore when he won the head-to-head halftime dance-off against a fan from Vincennes Lincoln.

Once he retreated back to the sideline, the momentarily stoic champion found his father, Dean, whom he hugged unrelentingly, an undying smile planted on his face.

Britzman

So what did the victor make of the experience, the chance to do what he loves in an NFL stadium in front of thousands? The response was perfectly fitting, perfectly concise.

“Fun!” Zach shouted with a smile.

Between Beckman’s halftime rendition, Jasper’s 64-2 drubbing of Vincennes Lincoln and the overall awe visible on countless faces inside the Indianapolis Colts’ vast abode, Saturday’s experience in the state’s capital encompassed delight of every variety.

“Totally surreal,” said Vickie Beckman, Zach’s mother, in describing the scene. “You look up at the screen and you see the big Colts (emblem) in the middle, you’re like, ”˜Wait a minute, what am I looking at? This isn’t the Colts, this is really Jasper!”

Jasper High School sold 1,800 presale tickets in the lead-up to the Wildcat’s scuffle against the Alices at Big Rivals Night, a three-game series that brought thousands to one of the Circle City’s crown jewels. Jasper athletic director Andy Noblitt said one fan bought a package of 40 tickets, while one group actually had family fly into town for the game.

Altogether, the day and weekend provided ample opportunity to revel, to marvel, to embrace the occasion.

Few capitalized on the chance more than William and Joan Giesler, the grandparents of Wildcat senior Connor Giesler. The couple made the trek up from Jasper in Friday’s deluge of rain before having dinner with family member and Jasper football great Larry Giesler, who’s held seven football records at the school for 41 years, by Joan’s count.

Saturday morning, William and Joan took to Indy’s streets for the 3-mile St. Vincent Cancer Walk. William, who’s recovering from Non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and Joan, now in remission from acute myeloid leukemia, were all smiles when describing the elation the weekend brought.

“This is the triple-threat weekend,” Joan Giesler said about the dinner, walk and ballgame. “It’s been a superb weekend.”

As her grandson scored the Wildcats’ eighth touchdown, Joan threw her arms in the air, celebrating beside her son Chad and daughter-in-law Kathy, who ventured up Saturday morning.

The two enjoyed some pregame tailgating in the stadium parking lot before making it inside Lucas Oil, their second opportunity since it opened in 2008.

“Good times, good friends, good camaraderie,” Chad summarized.

What pleased the couple more than anything was how inclusive the experience felt. The Wildcat band performed at halftime, JHS cheerleaders and dancers stayed busy on the sideline and organizers allowed droves of Jasper Youth Football players to form a tunnel for the Wildcats to charge through as they stormed onto the field.

“It’s beautiful,” Kathy beamed. “Everybody gets to enjoy it.”

For how long? That depended.

Vickie Beckman’s cousin-by-marriage Carol Schroeder, who sat beside the proud mom in the front row just to the left of the 50-yard line, consumed close to six hours of football. Schroeder, originally from Jasper, teaches at Lawrenceburg High School, which triumphed in the day’s opening game against Franklin County. Once that contest ended, Schroeder migrated to the other side of the field to join Jasper’s contingent of fans, the biggest crowd of the six schools that played.

On the flip side, Jasper sophomore Matt Britzman knew his window to shine was limited. With the Cats up big in the fourth quarter, Britzman delivered “probably the hardest hit all game,” in Jasper defensive coordinator Nick Eckert’s mind.

After sending an Alice ball carrier to the ground, Britzman jumped to his feet and began feverishly shoving teammates, his energy palpable from the sideline.

“What was going through my head? I wasn’t in the game at all so far, so I was thinking this was my chance to really do something great. Make something,” Britzman said. “So I saw the guy coming after me and I was thinking in my head, if I hit him as hard as I can, maybe I’ll do something. And I did something.”

So did Ben Moore, when he became the first of five Wildcats to score at least one touchdown. He extended across the goal line while being tackled, and the ball popped out upon contacting the turf. As Moore jogged off the field, he glanced up at one of the four Jumbotron screens to watch the feat he’d just pulled off.

Narcissistic? Not exactly.

“I had to make sure I didn’t fumble out there,” Moore kidded. “I knew it wouldn’t be too good if I fumbled it there right on the goal line, first drive of the game.”

For Moore, the game also allowed him to even another score. His sisters, Sarah and Rachel, already had performed at Lucas Oil with the Jasper band. Now, Ben can join the club.

“My sisters were always like, ”˜I don’t even play football but I got on Lucas Oil (field) before you,’” Moore recalled. “So now they can’t have that over me anymore. That will be nice.”

On the Jasper sideline, players periodically raised their eyes to marvel at the stadium’s expanse. Coupled with the Cats’ execution, the emotions seemed communal.

After Jasper’s defense forced another punt in the second quarter, Scott Stallwood zipped off the field, as wonder and excitement blended together on his face.

“This is awesome,” he uttered as he paced the sideline. “This is freakin’ sweet.”

Contact Joe Jasinski at jjasinski@dcherald.com.




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