Patriots to play for state championship

Kaiti Sullivan/The HeraldHeritage Hills' Wes Fleischmann celebrates with his team after winning Friday's semistate football game in Danville. The Patriots defeated the Warriors, 33-17, to earn a trip to the state championship game. For more photos from the game, click here.

By COREY STOLZENBACH 
sports@dcherald.com

DANVILLE – Heritage Hills will play for a football state championship for the first time since 2004.

The Patriots (14-0) trailed Danville, 10-9, at halftime in Friday's semistate game, but made it happen in the second half with a 33-17 triumph.

"We made some adjustments with our defense, obviously, and got some picks, changed some coverages up a little bit, and then made a few adjustments running the ball," Patriots coach Todd Wilkerson said. "We saw some things that we could do offensively, and I thought our kids responded well."

Senior quarterback Cole Sigler, who carried the ball four times for 102 yards and a touchdown in the first half, added a passing and rushing score to put the No. 2-ranked Heritage Hills into the Class 3A state championship.

Sigler made some timely throws to fellow senior Kaden Feldpausch, including a touchdown. Sigler found his receiver for 12 yards on third down. That didn't get the first, but it did set up sophomore Ethan Hill for a chance to redeem himself after missing an extra point earlier on Sigler's 70-yard run in the first half. Hill booted a 34-yarder to give Heritage Hills the lead for good, 12-10.

"He just made a quick little slant and I threw it to him and he got us in field goal range," Sigler said of Feldpausch. "Ethan did a great job of coming back and hitting the kick."

Defenses for both teams held their own early on. Heritage Hills scored first. Senior Jacob Wetzel intercepted sophomore quarterback Kale Payne in the first quarter, and the Pats got something out of their first of three interceptions on the night.

Sigler kept the ball for 32 yards. Heritage Hills could not drive much after that, but sophomore Ethan Hill was in field goal range, and nailed a 37-yarder for a 3-0 lead with 33 seconds left in the first quarter.

The No. 10-ranked Warriors (8-6) made the effort to respond, though. Danville junior Braden Walliser booted a 24-yard chip shot to tie the game at 3 with 7:32 before halftime. Both defenses were stingy for much of the first half, and both teams had penalties go against them that proved consequential for field position. Heritage Hills committed five penalties for 50 yards, while Danville was assessed five penalties for 40 yards.

Heritage Hills' Cole Sigler runs the ball during Friday's semi-state football game in Danville. Heritage Hills defeated Danville 33-17. For more photos from the game, click here.

However, Sigler helped Heritage Hills break through toward the end of the first half. He kept the ball and ran it all the way for a 70-yard touchdown at the 2:00 mark. The Warriors had the door open, though, after Hill missed his point-after attempt.

Danville drove in response. Payne found senior Noah Wells on a screen pass, and Wells turned it into a 30-yard touchdown reception with 48 seconds to go in the first half. Walliser's extra point was good, and the Warriors led for the first time Friday, 10-9. Heritage Hills' pass defense allowed 214 yards in the opening half.

Hill further redeemed himself following the field goal in the third quarter. SIgler kept it and ran to the left for a nine-yard score. This time, Hill's kick was good, and the Pats increased their lead to 19-10.

They added two more scores after the Feldpausch touchdown catch with 7:14 to go in the fourth, with Rodgers rushing 14 yards for his 21st rushing touchdown of the season with 3:22 remaining. Heritage Hills relied on Rodgers to get a first down after facing fourth down with a yard to go not once, but twice on Friday.

"It was a great feeling," Rodgers said. "I like that the coaches are still trusting me to get the ball where it needs to be. It's a great feeling to be winners of this semi-state."

Heritage Hills High School senior Kalene Rumley cheers after Friday's semi-state football game in Danville. Heritage Hills defeated Danville 33-17. For more photos from the game, click here.

The Warriors had a touchdown when senior Chandler Schubert ran it in with 1:56 to go, and a kick after to bring the game to its final score.

It's now off to Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis against No. 1-ranked Bishop Chatard for the Class 3A crown. The game is at 3:30 p.m. Friday. The Pats will seek their second state championship in history, following 2000.

Wilkerson thinks making it to the state championship game is what every player and coach dreams of, and it will be his first time on that stage as a head coach. He would have been happy if he knew during the summer his team would be playing for a state championship at 14-0.

"There was high expectations for this group," he said. "We knew they were special. We knew we had opportunities. But to know you have opportunities is one thing, and to do it's another."




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