By Mark Ambrogi
Danville Community High School middle linebacker Ethan Dutra knows the greatest test awaits, but he is confident the defense will be up to the challenge.
“Overall, I think our defense has been pretty dominant all year,” Dutra said. “That’s with all 11 of us playing as one, just a dominant defense all around.”
The Class 3A No. 5 Warriors (11-0) are allowing just 9.9 points per game entering the Class 3A state championship game, at Lucas Oil Stadium, 3 p.m, Saturday (Nov. 28), against No. 1 Bishop Chatard (12-1).
“The reason we are successful starts with our defense,” Danville first-year coach Jayme Comer said. “(Defensive Coordinator) Jason Thompson and our staff do a great job of putting our kids in position to make plays. Our kids just fly around and play with great effort and intensity.”
Dutra, the team’s leading tackler, said the defensive line helps sets the tone.
“Our D-line producing like the way they have been all year, that frees up space for the linebackers to make plays,” Dutra said. “Sometimes a D-lineman takes up two or three blockers and a linebacker makes a play and they don’t get credit for the tackle or sack, but they are the ones that made the play.”
The 5-foot-11, 205-pound Dutra said the physicality part of it is where the Warriors made their improvement from last season.
“Last year I felt I was a more traditional linebacker,” he said. “This year I’ve built some speed up and have more agility. Running the ball helps me with my hips and footwork.”
Dutra, whose brother Chase played defensive back at Brownsburg High School and Indiana University, is Danville’s second-leading rusher with 690 yards on 101 carries. Matt McGovern leads the Warriors with 809 yards on 99 carries.
“Having me and McGovern back there is nice because it’s two different styles of running and either one is not pretty for a defense,” Dutra said. “If I see a person around me, I’m not going to try to go around him, I’m going to try to go straight through him.”
Dutra is quick to point out the blocking contributions by both the offensive line and receivers.
The Warriors, who average 36 points per game, are seeking their first football state championship, which would be the school’s first state team title in any sport. In contrast, Chatard has 14 state football titles, more than any other school.
While Comer has great respect for Chatard’s tradition and Coach Rob Doyle and his staff, he knows any history goes out the window when the game starts.
“The team that prepares the most and plays the best will win,” he said. “They have a lot of kids that are really good football players,” Comer said. “They play well together as a team. They don’t make many mistakes, mental or physical. They’re very physical. We’re going to have to play really well to win the game and that’s how it should be at this point.”
Dutra said the Warriors have handled adversity well all season.
“We don’t get too high or too low until the job is completed, he said.
Chatard averages 31 points per game and limits opponents to 10.5 points. Junior Tommy Hannon leads Chatard’s rushing attack with 1,062 yards and 17 touchdowns.Trojans junior quarterback Carter St. James has thrown for 2,141 yards and 25 touchdowns and rushed for 464 yards and five TDs.
“He’s an athlete that we have to make sure we can contain,” Comer said. “He can make plays with his feet and he can throw the ball pretty well. They have a lot of linebackers who can fly around and make plays.”
The Warriors have their own successful junior quarterback in Kale Payne, who completed 71.5 percent of his passes for 1,809 yards and 26 TDs.