Pats 3-for-3 in Mental Attitude AwardAugust 17, 2021
By COREY STOLZENBACH
Editor's Note: This is the second in a series of stories this week on the 50th season of Heritage Hills Football.
Heritage Hills has been to state three times in its illustrious history. While the Patriots have claimed only state championship, back in 2000, there's one area at state in which they are undefeated.
They made it to the RCA Dome in 2000 and 2004, plus Lucas Oil Stadium in 2019. Heritage Hills claimed the Class 3A prize with a 27-24 win against Zionsville in 2000, but lost to Andrean, 21-14, in 2004 and 34-3 to Bishop Chatard in 2019.
All three times, however, a Heritage Hills player has received the Mental Attitude Award after the game. Adam Kress won it as a member of the 2000 state championship team, Bryce Pund received it in 2004 and Cole Sigler in 2019.
"I just think we're very fortunate as a program for that to have happened," said Chris Sigler, a 1981 graduate, former longtime assistant and Cole's father. "But all of them are good guys. They're good guys, they deserved it and very proud of all of them. That's a really big deal when you think about it - 3-0 at the state with Mental Attitude Award winners. That's a really cool thing."
Heritage Hills had been knocking at the door for many years before putting it all together in 2000.
Those who came before the 2000 Pats could tell of falling shy in the sectional championship, be it against Evansville Memorial (1988, 1991, 1993) or Jasper (1994, 1995), the obstacle was there. When they finally broke through by winning their first sectional ever in 1996, they still suffered a 20-19 loss to Zionsville in overtime at semi-state, to Chatard, 24-21, in the 1997 regional and to Mt. Vernon, 6-3, in the 1999 sectional championship.
Come that 2000 season, though, Heritage Hills turned in its second of six consecutive undefeated regular seasons, not only beating teams, but dominating a lot of them. Kress noted that going undefeated in the regular season was an expectation, and a disappointment if it didn't happen.
"Our senior year, it was kind of like a flip of a switch where me and several of the guys, it's kind of like, 'Hey, this is the last rodeo. We got to put the work in, we got to hold each other accountable,'" Kress said. We had a lot of players-only meetings where coaches weren't there and we would get done with a workout or practice and whatever and we would talk probably every week. It might only be 15 minutes, but it'd be like, 'Hey, boys. This is where we're looking...to go and we all need to be on board.'"
Heritage Hills ran roughshod over everybody in the regular season, posting five shutouts and not allowing any team to reach single digits. The Pats had a four-game stretch where they won by at least 63 points, with the last one being a 90-0 win Oct. 6 at Pike Central. The closest any team came to knocking them off in the regular season was Oct. 13 against South Spencer, but the Pats came away with a 14-6 win. They outscored their sectional opponents a combined 138-17.
Kress made it known that it was discussed in those meetings that Heritage Hills wasn't trying to just win another sectional, but was looking to do something special. He talked of the players having a heart-to-heart with another during that year. Some might've been looking forward to playing basketball, but the team wasn't going to stop just for that.
"It was just basically getting reiterated, 'Hey, there's hardware every step of the way here, and we're not stopping until somebody makes us,'" he said. "We just had the mentality that we just refused to get beat regardless."
The Pats completed their undefeated season with regional, semi-state and state wins, capped off by Cole Seifrig's touchdown pass to Jay Cutler.
Kress had embraced the culture of Heritage Hills football, had embraced the brotherhood that came with it all. While it was cool for him to win it, he saw it as a team award and that he couldn't have done it without them.
For him, it came full circle. There he was, the Mental Attitude winner for the program, which began in 1972, that just won its first state championship, with his uncle, Tony, and his father, Phil, being on the roster that first year.
Adam credited his family, immediate and extended, as a product of his award.
"They're all hardworking, good people, that help each other out, be good neighbors," Adam said. "It rubs off where that's kind of how you're brought up and that's kind of the person you want to be and how you want to live for your kids and instill that in them."
The excellence of Heritage Hills football did not stop after the 2000 state championship season. The Pats were in the midst of six straight trips to semi-state, but hadn't been to the RCA Dome since 2000 - falling short to Chatard all three years in semi-state in 2001, 2002 and 2003.
Heritage Hills was counting on quarterback Bryce Pund heading into his senior season of 2004, but it didn't take long for adversity to come knocking.
"I had an injury at the start of my senior year, so that was a big setback," Pund said. "I tore my hamstring. First three games, I think, I sat out."
Pund dealt with a gruesome recovery process, going to rehab every morning - spending a lot of time on the bike, whether it was in the mornings or at practice.
Being on the sidelines and not being able to compete at the start of the year was tough for him, but he embraced being a leader for his team.
"I'm sure I can still kind of remember the coaches yelling at me to shut up because that's one character trait that probably that knows me is that I'm going to be very vocal at whatever I do," he said.
The Pats turned to Jacob McGrew, who would later take the reins at quarterback after the 2004 season. McGrew did his job, quarterbacking the Pats to a 3-0 record before Pund came back for a 34-31 double overtime win Sept. 10 at Jasper, and the winning kept on going.
"We didn't really know what to expect because we lost a lot of key players from the year before, and we had a lot of new faces, new bodies on our team," Pund said. "That was probably one thing we had going for us is I don't think the expectations for us (were) to have an undefeated season or to go to the state championship was ever a thought."
Like the 2000 team, the 2004 squad won by some nice margins, but the 2004 team had some wins, especially during the postseason, by substantially smaller wiggle room. The 2004 Pats enjoyed a 24-14 sectional championship win against Evansville Mater Dei, but a deadlock lasted at Batesville in the regional championship game until Jace Morrison supplied the first, and only, points of the game with a field goal with 9:19 to play in regulation. Heritage Hills had won the game, 3-0.
And then, there stood Chatard once again. The Trojans had won each of the previous three Class 3A state championships after knocking Heritage Hills out in semi-state. The Pats would be going to Indianapolis, but they'd have to get past the champs before their chance to play in the dome.
"Their approach to us was that they were going to walk to the state championship, which we had all the determination to kind of fight that," Pund said.
Heritage Hills won thanks again to timely kicking by Morrison, his 38-yarder booted one through the uprights with time winding down, and the Pats escaped with a 13-10 win.
Pund described it as an unbelievable atmosphere afterward.
"The whole stands came out on that field, and it was just like a weight had been lifted from our shoulders," he said.
However, the 2004 Pats couldn't complete the perfect season, as a 21-14 loss to Andrean prevented them from a second state championship, but Heritage Hills had its second Mental Attitude winner. It was bittersweet to him because he was mad that his team lost the game. It was still special to be there on the field and celebrate with his parents. Now that he's a parent himself, it's even more special.
"We had a great leader," then-junior Jacob Nichols told The Herald, according to the Nov. 29, 2004 edition. "He's the one that really pushes us."
Pund explained in what ways he showed leadership during his time.
"Just reinstilling in everybody of we may have been the underdog, but in that huddle, in that locker room, we were as confident as anybody," Pund said.
Heritage Hills has been a steady winner throughout its history, but some teams have finished with a better record than others did. The 2017 squad went 5-5, but the 2018 Pats appeared like it could've had something going. They enjoyed another undefeated regular season, and at one point, posted three straight shutouts, outscoring opponents 169-0 in that stretch.
Then it all came to a screeching halt with a 24-14 loss to Gibson Southern in the sectional semifinals. Season over.
For Heritage Hills quarterback Cole Sigler, it was tough to have accomplished so much his junior year, only have it stamped out like that.
"For the next year, it made us even more hungry and want to be even better than we were my junior year," Sigler said.
The fire was lit within him. Sigler worked out all year long, made it a point to get faster, stronger and in great shape. He threw a lot of footballs, sought to improve his footwork and attended a lot of camps.
Like the 2018 team, the 2019 squad undefeated in the regular season. Eight of their nine wins came by double figures, and had six straight games of reeling off at least 40 points.
But then came the Nov. 1, 2019 semifinal, when the Pats would again play the Titans on the road. Win this game, and payback was theirs, lose and it was fall short again and a talented, highly touted senior class that Sigler was a part of would never get out of the sectional.
It was during that game the Class 3A Mental Attitude Award recipient felt he showed leadership.
"I just kind of looked around, I was like, 'Hey guys, we're going to make something happen here,'" Sigler said. "'This game is a long way from being over, we've got plenty of time to go do it. We're not leaving here without a win.'"
The Titans led much of the way, but it was Sigler on a punt who returned it for a touchdown, and the Pats took the lead on the extra point. Blocking a would-be walk-off field goal meant Heritage Hills survived, 21-20.
"The tables turned, and we were able to move the ball really quickly and scored," he said. "...We weren't going to give up. It could be your last high school football game ever."
That was the team's toughest test, as sectional regional and semi-state hardware soon followed. Sigler was one win away from helping deliver the program its first state championship since before he was born, when his father, Chris, was an assistant on the 2000 state championship team and 2004 state runner-up.
Heritage Hills never led Chatard in the state title game. The closest the Pats got was when they trailed, 7-3, and fell, 34-3. Heritage Hills' defense limited the Trojans to 21 points after three quarters, but the offense couldn't get into the end zone.
The Pats were now 1-2 at state, but also 3-0, when Cole's name was announced.
"I truly, truly was determined to go out my senior with all your buddies on the team and have a really, really good year," Cole said of receiving the award. "We were all excited to play, having fun out there."
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