EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WFIE) - The path to Lucas Oil Stadium is no stranger to Memorial Tigers. After key losses following last year’s appearance, not many thought another state-run was in the cards for the Tigers.
For the third consecutive years, the Tigers will end their season in Indianapolis.
“We know what we’re getting ourselves into,” states Memorial senior Mason Auker. “We know how hard we gotta work and we know that it’s gonna take 48 minutes to get a blue medal and get a ring in the end.”
Following a 3A State Championship in 2017 and runner-up finish last season, the Tigers will play for the program’s first 4A Championship on Saturday. And that’s something not a lot people thought was even possible.
“Throughout the year even some people didn’t think we’d make it this far I think we’ve proved people wrong that we still have athletes on the team and it’s a good feeling for sure,” explains Tigers senior Dawson Hurley.
Leading the Tigers to the biggest stage of Indiana high school football is none other than Head Coach John Hurley.
“We did lose some athletes, coming back I even heard people refer to us as the ‘paper Tigers’ and I think they answered the bell to that," Coach Hurley says. "We got a lot of role players that have filled in in different positions this year and I’m proud of the way that this senior group has handled themselves all the way through.”
“Coach Hurley has been one of those father figures for me the past 12 years, I’ve played football with Dawson since we were young,” explains Auker. “It’s nice to see him get some recognition for how hard he’s worked the last 12 years.”
Saturday marks Coach Hurley’s fifth time coaching a State Championship win. If the Tigers come away with the win, it will be career win No. 100 for Coach Hurley.
“Really, that just means I’ve been around a bit and surrounded by good people, whether it be the players, the coaches, we’ve been fortunate to have not a lot of turnover in our coaching staff, we’ve got a great group of guys,” says Coach Hurley.
To notch win 100 for their coach, the Tigers will have to take down undefeated East Noble, who is appearing in their third State Championship game in program history.
“They’re a great football team, they’re quick, they’re not as big as some of the teams that we’ve played but they definitely have some size, so it should be a great match-up,” Dawson states.
“It’s easy to get caught up in all the noise around a State Championship, but you just gotta keep it regular and approach it like a normal game.”
A “normal” game with everything on the line.
For this Memorial team, the 4A state title would not only prove the doubters wrong, but it would be a dream come true.
“It’d mean the world to me," Auker says. "We’ve been working since June, beginning of June this summer and I know our senior class isn’t satisfied yet.”
“It would mean a lot, for my senior year, for the community at Memorial it’s a special place and for the coaches, especially for my Dad’s 100th win," explains Dawson. "There’s a lot going into this game, so it’d be nice to pull one-off.”
“It would mean a lot," states Coach Hurley. "It would be a nice feather in the cap for these guys and what they’ve accomplished in high school and I think it would be a feather in the cap for Memorial High School. I think it would be phenomenal.”
Be sure to watch 14 News for all your Indiana State Championship highlights. You can catch halftime, full highlights and postgame reaction from both the Heritage Hills matchup and Memorials.