By Mark Ambrogi
The Lutheran High School football team was perfectly consistent once again.
The Saints captured their second consecutive Class A state championship with a 30-13 victory over Adams Central Nov. 26 at Lucas Oil Stadium. Lutheran was 15-0 both seasons, beating Adams Central 34-28 in the 2021 state title game.
“Sustainability is the toughest thing to do in life,” Lutheran High School football coach Dave Pasch said. “It’s easy to do it one time when you have a bunch of young kids. We haven’t lost a football game at the JV or varsity level for two years. I’ve never heard anything like it. The expectations for them we have in the classroom, and we have for them as people allowed us to sustain that. In my mind, it’s such a huge accomplishment. It’s not just about the win (in the state final). It’s about what we’ve done along the way.”
Sophomore Jackson Willis completed 17 of 19 passes for 278 yards and four touchdowns. Willis completed 217 of 307 passes for 4,185 yards with 55 touchdowns and just six interceptions.
“Our offense lends itself well for letting the quarterback make safe throws,” Pasch said. “He’s accurate and he has a big arm. He was a little nervous early in the game, but he settled in. He’s very humble, but he’s a confident guy. He thinks he can make every throw and he hasn’t proved otherwise.”
Willis said he did have some nerves.
“You are always a little shaky in the beginning, but you look at what they are doing on defense and make adjustments to win,” Willis said.
Willis’ four TD passes tied a Class A state record. Three of them went to sophomore DeVuan Jones, which also tied a Class A record. Jones had seven catches for 121 yards, including TDs of 67, 7 and 23 yards. Senior Micah Mackay had four catches for 93 yards, including a 14-yard touchdown reception. Mackay finished with a team-high 69 catches.
Willis gave credit to the receivers and the rest of the offensive unit.
“My offensive line is amazing,” Willis said. “They block and protect me. When we need yards, my running back (Joe Davis) goes and gets the yards.”
Davis, a senior, rushed for 72 yards on 18 carries to give him 1,841 yards for the season.
Adams Central led 7-3 in the second quarter before Mackay’s TD catch with 6:25 left put Lutheran ahead at 9-7.
“It doesn’t faze us, that’s one of the amazing things,” Pasch said of being down early. “It’s that consistency and the tremendous poise and maturity that we have. Over the last four years, there has been such an expectation for success, and we trust the process.”
Willis, who dressed but didn’t play in the 2021 state final, said the experience of returning helped the team.
Mackay said the offense began clicking midway through the second quarter.
“Knowing what Jackson is capable of, we launched a few and got down the field and scored a few,” he said.
Mackay, who also plays baseball and basketball, was named the Mental Attitude Award winner for Class A.
“Mental attitude, he is the guy,” Pasch said. “He lives it with every aspect of his life. He’s a high academic guy. He’s a high community guy. He’s well rounded in every facet of life. He’s a kid that is going to have some outstanding experiences and successes in his life.”
The 6-foot-3 Mackay, who might play football or baseball in college, said winning again was even sweeter.
“It’s awesome to win your last game as a senior and go 30-0 (over two seasons),” Mackay said. “Not a lot of people can say that they did that.”
Mackay said he was surprised by winning the Mental Attitude Award.
“I didn’t think I would win it; I think there are better people on the team that could have won it, but I’m glad they chose me,” he said. “They recognize I have some positivity in my life.”
The Saints seniors have lost just three games in their career. Lutheran was 9-2 in 2020 and 13-1 in 2019, losing in the state title game to Lafayette Central Catholic, 29-28.
Defensive lineman Cameron McHaney, the only freshman to start, led the Saints with 12 tackles, including 10 solos in the final.