LINCOLN CITY, Ind. (WFIE) - Since 1972, Heritage Hills football has run deep with tradition. That first year of existence, set the tone, with a 9-1 record.
Legendary Head Coach Bob Clayton won 320 games in 34 years. Former NFL stars Ken Dilger, Jay Cutler, and Jon Goldsberry played for the Patriots before rising to the professional ranks.
Fast-forward to 2019, they are about to play in the program’s third State Championship: they won it all in 2000, with Cutler under center and finished runners-up in ’04, with Bryce Pund and Jacob Nichols, leading the charge.
“It really was a surreal moment honestly and it didn’t really sink into me and I don’t’ know if it will till we kick off Friday that we’re gonna be in the State Championship game,” explains Patriots Head Coach Todd Wilkerson.
“Throughout the game, it was a good feeling, good atmosphere, felt like a home gam, we had a big crowd there too,” says Heritage Hills senior Jacob Wetzel.
“Friday night, everybody was celebrating out there on the field forever,” Patriots senior Phoenix Rodgers recalls.
It is hard to believe its been 19 years since the Patriots won their only state championship on that famous trick play from Cole Seifrig to Cutler, but now this year’s squad has a chance to join them in Lincoln City lore.
“It’s a chance to make our team, ourselves legendary, leave a little something behind for people to say ‘hey instead of Jay Cutler it’s Phoenix Rodgers, Cole Sigler, everybody saying that was our class who did that too,’” says Wetzel.
“It’s nice to be remembered like those guys are and hopefully, we can pull out a win like they did,” Rodgers states.
And to do that, they’ll have to take down their old nemesis, Indianapolis Chatard. The Patriots and Chatard have played seven times before, but Heritage Hills has only beaten them once back in 2004, on their way to the state finals. This time around, their meeting is the biggest one in history.
“Great football team, great football program, lotta super athletes on their team, team speed, have a nice offensive line and a great running back, really great athletes all over the field,” says Coach Wilkerson. “We’re gonna have to play great defense, tackle well and we’re gonna have to score points.”
They’re a good team, we’re a good team, it’s gonna be a good game either way," Wetzel says. "They’re there for a reason, we’re there for a reason.
“We’ve had a good recipe all year,” Coach Wilkerson states. “Play good defense run the ball, let our special teams help us. We don’t need to try to do anything special. we need to play within our selves and enjoy it.”
“This is a whole new thing, they’re a different team, we’re a different team and we’re ready to roll,” states Rodgers.
Friday’s 3A State Championship game at Lucas Oil will start at 2:30 p.m. CT.