It seemed like a golden opportunity when Dave Pasch left the turf of Lucas Oil Stadium last season with a Lutheran state championship in his 14th seasonth year as a coach.
Then this season started. And it was clear early on that Pasch had a team capable of doing it again. The senior Class A Saints (14-0) will face the same opponent, second-seeded Adams Central (14-0) in Saturday’s state championship at 11 a.m. at Lucas Oil Stadium.
“When you lose the caliber of players that we left the team last year, you know it’s a big task,” said Pasch. “Was it a possibility? Absolutely if we had the right kids growing into their specific roles. But it certainly wasn’t something we thought was going to play out.”
The way it turned out was stunning dominance. The Saints lead the state at 49.4 points per game against a quality schedule in the Indiana Crossroads Conference against top-10 Class 2A programs like Triton Central and Scecina. In five tournament games, Lutheran has bested their opponents 238-14. The only real challenge came last week in the snowy and cold state of North Decatur with a 28-7 win.
The offense made the smooth transition from last year’s Montasi Clay to sophomore Jackson Willis (3,907 passing yards, 51 TDs), who will likely become the fifth quarterback in state history to throw for 4,000 yards in a single season. Veteran players like senior receivers Micah Mackay (65 catches, 1,403 yards, 16 touchdowns) and Cur’Brian Shelby (36 catches, 863 yards, 14 TDs) and senior running back Joe Davis (1,769 rushing yards, 28 TDs) will help to ease the transition).
“I think what’s being overlooked and what people don’t understand is that this is the third state final for this senior class,” said Pasch. “I think they played an extra season. That’s a lot of practice and a lot of experience. … I would say we’ve done what the program was built to do, which is for the senior to pass it on to the next group of incoming seniors and juniors and, as so often with us, say, ‘Do your job.’ We had a lot of kids stepping into their roles and doing their jobs.”
Pasch joined Lutheran in 2008 after an 11-year tenure at North Putnam, where he went 25-2 in his last two seasons with a regional and a section title. Lutheran had just started their program and played for a section for the first time in 2006.
“I’ve always believed that creating a program is easy compared to maintaining a program,” Pasch said. “There is some forgiveness in building. When you win, expectations are very high and there isn’t much room for failure. Sustainability will be very difficult.”
Because of that, Pasch said he can appreciate what the Saints have accomplished in building a 29-game winning streak not just over the past two seasons, but over many years. He saw that opportunity when he left North Putnam going to the 2010 State Finals.
“Everyone asked me, ‘How did you leave the program back then, knowing the group of kids you had?'” Pasch said. “They left knowing that it was in great hands, but also with great confidence in the commitment Lutheran would make to what we could achieve. I think that is starting to show in the fruits of everyone’s dedication.”
Here’s a closer look at the Class A title game:
Adams Central (14-0) vs. Lutherans (14-0)
Adams Central No. 2; Lutheran #1
Saturday, 11 a.m., at Lucas Oil Stadium
Bally Sports Indiana and IHSAAtv.org
Adams Central won a state championship in 2000, defeating Attica 29-21. Lutheran won its first state championship last season and has four overall. The Saints have three state championships in softball.
Adams Central coach Michael Mosser, 48, is in his 14th seasonth season at Adams Central, his only head coaching job. Mosser has led the Flying Jets to a 127-47 record. He is a 1993 graduate of Adams Central and played college quarterback at Anderson University. Mosser started out as a middle school coach at Eastbrook and South Adams before becoming an assistant at Adams Central from 2006-2008.
Lutheran trainer Dave Pasch, 52, is in his 15th yearth Season at Lutheran and 26th overall with an overall record of 202-110. Pasch, also an athletics coach and assistant principal, coached at North Putnam for 11 seasons prior to Lutheran. He graduated from Brownsburg in 1988 and from Ball State in 1993.
A closer look at Adams Central
Adams Central has been one of the top Class A programs in the state as of 2015. The Flying Jets rank third in the state in average win rate (35.9 points) and fourth in scoring (46.1 ppg). Adams Central has defeated three top 10 teams in the tournament: No. 10 South Adams in section semifinals (55-20), No. 6 Carroll (Flora) in regional championship (35-0), and No. 4 North Judson (35 -0) in the semi-state.
The Flying Jets’ Wing-T offense produces 316.4 rushing yards per game, led by junior fullback Keegan Bluhm (1,488 rushing yards, 18 touchdowns). Senior quarterback Ryan Black (931 rushing yards, 28 TDs), senior wingback Gavin Cook (810 rushing yards, 10 TDs) and junior running back Ryan Tester (585 rushing yards, seven TDs) lead the Adams Central ground game. Junior tight end Trevor Currie (15 catches, 348 yards, 10 TDs) leads the team on receiving. The defense is led by junior linebacker Jack Hamilton (89 tackles, four interceptions), junior linebacker Bluhm (93 tackles, three interceptions), and Cook (77 tackles) at fullback.
A closer look at Lutheran
Lutheran won its first state championship last season with a 34-28 win over Adams Central. The Saints, who were state runners-up in 2019, defeated No. 9 North Putnam (42-0) in the sectional opener and No. 3 North Decatur (28-7) in the semistate. Lutheran has 29 consecutive wins.
Lutheran second quarterback Jackson Willis leads the state in passing with 3,907 yards and has 51 passing TDs. Senior receiver Micah Mackay is third in the state with 1,403 yards and 16 receiving TDs. Other standouts include senior receiver Cur’Brian Shelby (36 catches, 863 yards, 14 TDs), sophomore receiver DeVaun Jones (48 catches, 817 yards, eight TDs), and senior running back Joe Davis (1,769 yards, 28 TDs). . The defensive leaders are junior linebacker Jonny Hall (105 tackles, four interceptions) and senior linebacker Spencer Bauer (82 tackles, three sacks).
How Adams Central can win
Same as last year. Adams Central must control the ball and try to keep Lutheran’s explosive offense off the field. The Flying Jets managed a half-hour last year to take a 21-7 lead before the Saints defense adjusted. Defense will need to make some plays, but it will be largely up to offense to keep the chains going.
How Lutheran Can Win
Better start against the run of defense and keep the offense going. Aside from last week’s cold and snowy encounter against North Decatur, no team has really been able to slow down the Saints.
Lutheran 38, Adams Central 24.
Call Star Reporter Kyle Neddenriep at (317) 444-6649.