Lawrenceburg falls to Bishop Chatard in title tilt

Lawrenceburg Tigers

INDIANAPOLIS – The Lawrenceburg Tigers went to Indianapolis Saturday in search of their first state championship since 1978 but fell short of that feat, falling 34-14 to Bishop Chatard at Lucas Oil Stadium.

“This is what you sign up for. You want to play in the state title game,” Lawrenceburg Head Coach Ryan Knigga said after the game. “Proud of our guys and proud of our community.”

It was a tale of two halves for Lawrenceburg. The Tigers took a 14-10 lead into halftime but collapsed on both sides of the ball in the second half, turning the ball over four times and allowing Bishop Chatard to score 24 unanswered points.

Lawrenceburg came out firing on its first possession. The Tigers drove 71 yards on its opening drive to take an early 7-0 lead on a big Alex Witte 31-yard run.

“We always try to get the ball first to try to get ahead and let our defense work,” Knigga said. “That was just a huge drive. I think it also gave our guys some confidence. I thought that was big.”

PHOTOS: Lawrenceburg vs. Bishop Chatard

The Tigers started off on a bad foot on the ensuing kickoff when a horsecollar penalty gave Bishop Chatard the ball on their own 39-yard line instead of the 24-yard line. The Trojans worked quickly down the field and within three minutes, they found the end zone on a Luke Purichia 7-yard dash.

Lawrenceburg began taking risks on its next possession. Facing a fourth-and-2, the Tigers attempted to pick up the first down. However, quarterback Logan Ahaus fumbled the snap and the Tigers were stopped on their own 39-yard line.

Just a few snaps later, Bishop Chatard attempted the same risk on a bigger magnitude, going for it on fourth-and-10 on the Lawrenceburg 39-yard line. However, the Trojans had a different fate, narrowly picking up the first down on a 10-yard run by quarterback Drew Van Vleet. The drive stalled though and Bishop Chatard was forced to take the lead on a 37-yard field goal by Jasper Chapman.

That lead didn’t last long. The Tigers found a groove on offense, running the ball using Witte and Teagan Bennett. After a series of runs, the Tigers capped off the drive through the air on a 7-yard connection from Logan Ahaus to Brennan Bushman. That gave Lawrenceburg a 14-10 lead.

The defense stepped up big for Lawrenceburg as well. With Bishop Chatard driving near the end of the quarter, Alex Witte came up with a big sack that pushed the Trojans offense back into their own territory and facing a third-and-17. 

After failing to pick up the long first down, Bishop Chatard got its payback by placing the punt on the 2-yard line with under a minute to go. However, the game was far from going into the half.

With Lawrenceburg trying to run out the clock, the Tigers fumbled the football on their own 6-yard line. With momentum briefly on their side, the Trojans attempted to fire a pass to take a lead into the half. However, the Tigers had other plans and Niko Ferreria picked off Van Vleet’s pass and returned it far enough away from the end zone that Lawrenceburg was able to take a knee into the half.

Bishop Chatard retook the momentum midway through the third quarter and never looked back. After going three and out on their first offensive drive, the Trojans’ defense made plays that led to Colin Guy picking off Logan Ahaus and returning it to the Lawrenceburg 47-yard line. That led to a 10-yard touchdown pass from Van Vleet to Noah Dudik to retake the lead 17-14.

The Tigers did their best to put points on the board on their next possession, but their drive stalled on the Bishop Chatard 29-yard line. A 46-yard field goal attempt fell just short, giving Bishop Chatard the ball back with about three minutes left in the quarter.

The Lawrenceburg defense nearly came alive on the next Trojan offensive drive. Two penalties and a big sack forced Bishop Chatard into a third-and-24. Defying the odds, Van Fleet found Guy for 25 yards to make the conversion. That was followed up by a 15-yard touchdown run by Riley Kinnett to increase the Trojan lead to 10.

With momentum on their side, the Trojans continued their disruption on defense, forcing Ahaus to make a bad pass and into the hands of Guy for his second interception of the game. Another Jasper Chapman field goal created what felt like an insurmountable lead with just over eight minutes left in the game.

Following a Ryan Keating interception on the next Lawrenceburg drive, Kinnett put the final nail in the coffin for Lawrenceburg, giving Bishop Chatard the 20-point lead on a 31-yard run to the end zone.

“A few breaks didn’t go our way in the second half but I’m really proud of our guys in that locker room,” Knigga said. “In the second half, they [Bishop Chatard] just made more plays than we did.”

Despite winning by 20, Bishop Chatard only outgained Lawrenceburg 286 yards to 256 yards. That’s due to the excellent field position the Trojans found themselves in on Tiger turnovers. Van Vleet was the star of the Trojan offense, completing 16 passes on 20 attempts for 133 yards and a touchdown.

The Tiger offense was led on the ground with Teagan Bennett, who rushed for 124 yards on 22 carries. In his final high school game, senior Alex Witte rushed for 108 yards on 25 carries and one touchdown. Knigga praised Witte and the fellow seniors after the game.

“They’re an unbelievable group. Not only good football players but good in the community,” Knigga said. “I’m just really excited for them to be able to cap their senior season off like this.”

This was the sixth appearance for the Lawrenceburg Tigers in the state title game and the second under Ryan Knigga. Prior to the 2016 appearance, the Tigers hadn’t been to a championship game since 1985. 

With the loss, Lawrenceburg finishes the season 13-2.

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