INDIANAPOLIS – In the end, the hurdle to history wasn’t penalized.
Bishop Luers got over top-ranked Indianapolis Ritter’s rally for a 40-28 win Friday at Lucas Oil Stadium to secure its fourth straight Class 2A state football championship.
The Knights (11-4) became the first 2A school and third overall to accomplish the rare four-peat achievement.
Luers led 27-0 in the first half, but watch as Ritter (14-1) kept chipping and chipping away at the lead and grabbed the momentum in the fourth.
After Luers star senior running back Jaylon Smith was called for a rare hurdling penalty for jumping over a defender in the fourth quarter, the comeback appeared to be getting closer to completion for the Raiders.
After Smith’s heroics for a first down were foiled by the officials’ call on one of the most athletic plays for a high school athlete, the Raiders cut the lead to 27-21 on Jake Hagen’s punt return for a touchdown, the third of his four touchdowns.
“It was demoralizing,” Smith said of the penalty. “Once they told me it was illegal, I was like man.
“I was kind of defenseless, and I had to do something. It was a great move.”
But it was nothing for a team that has dealt with the firing of coach Matt Lindsay at midseason, a forfeit loss and two interim coaches.
“We have been dealing with adversity all year,” senior defensive back Kendrick Mullen said. “We know how to bounce back through tough times like that when they went on the scoring spree in the second half.”
Luers drove down the field and answered the Ritter score with one of its own on a TyVel Jemison run to make it 33-21.
The Raiders got to within 33-28 in the fourth but couldn’t get any closer.
“It feels real good to come out on top,” said Luers senior receiver Mike Rogers, who had a touchdown catch. “We knew the game wasn’t over. We just had to get the fire back like we had in the first half.”
Ritter junior quarterback Jake Purichia kept the Raiders in the game with 238 yards passing and three touchdowns.
Hagen finished with nine catches for 138 yards and three touchdowns receiving.
“(Ritter) is an excellent ballclub, and we blew a couple of coverages,” Luers interim coach Steve Keefer said. “They took advantage of it. We stepped up. I called them together in the fourth quarter and said the seniors had to lead now.”
The Luers’ defense rose to the occasion when it needed to.
“We just had some miscommunication in the defensive secondary,” Luers senior Jemison said. “That hasn’t happened in a while. We got together as seniors, and we wanted that four-peat real bad, and we decided to get it.”
Luers looked as though it would make the title game a rout with the early four-touchdown lead.
Quarterback Quinn Cook was 8 for 8 passing in the first half, including the touchdown pass to Rogers to make it 14-0. Touchdown runs by Jaquale Cooper and Smith made it 27-0.
“We were getting the push up front, and when we get that we have a good chance of getting some scores up,” running back Mike Rogers said.
The Knights opened up the second half with a missed field goal, a defensive pass interference penalty and then another Hagen touchdown catch and suddenly it was 27-14.
Then the Raiders got an onside kick and another pass interference penalty, but held on fourth down before Smith’s hurdling penalty.
“That third quarter was pretty rough,” Smith said. “We were gassed, and we just had to persevere, and it all started with the seniors.”