Owen Scheele was slated to be Fort Wayne Carroll’s quarterback this season before his life was cut short by cancer.
Scheele died at age 17 in June after a short leukemia battle.
“It has brought the community together, whether it be teammates together or people outside the program,” Carroll coach Doug Dinan said. “All the actions have been for him and in honor of him. He wore number 13. We’re 13-0. Those numbers are special to us. He was a tremendous kid. He was a great competitor. He only started one game because he was behind Jeff Becker, a three-year starter. But Owen was to be our quarterback. He was a tremendously gifted player. We were excited about his future and where he was going to lead us. It was so fast and so tragic.
“(The players) have handled it by being together and praying together and doing all things in honor of him. It has been a rallying cry.”
The No. 5 Chargers will face No. 4 Center Grove at 7 p.m. tonight in the Class 6A state championship game at Lucas Oil Stadium. Carroll had never won a regional before this season. In contrast, Center Grove, a two-time defending state champion, is playing in its fourth consecutive 6A title game.
Dinan said the Chargers got a boost from last year’s 37-14 loss to Westfield in the regional.
“It was an eight-point game until the end,” he said. “I think that was the tipping point that our kids realized the level they can play at. Westfield came down here and played an outstanding state championship game and had opportunities to win that game. Without question, the IHSAA restructuring of the state tournament helped us, because it pushed us north away from the Indy (area) schools. … Not to discount Lafayette Jeff, because Lafayette Jeff is a good football team. We were fortunate to win that game in the regional.”
The Chargers edged Lafayette Jeff 21-20 in the regional and upset No. 1 Hamilton Southeastern 21-15 in the semistate.
Carroll comes in allowing just 9.8 points per game while scoring just over 37.
“They play physical, they play fast, they play together,” Dinan said of his defense. “Our defensive staff does a very good job of coaching them up. We will go as our defense goes. If we are successful, control the line of scrimmage, defend the run, we’ve got a chance.”
Junior defensive end Ashton Pesetski leads Carroll with 86 tackles, 21 tackles for loss and 11 sacks.
Sophomore quarterback Jimmy Sullivan, a transfer from rival Homestead this season, has completed nearly 65 percent of his passes for 2,203 yards with 27 touchdowns and seven interceptions.
“His ability to throw the ball and distribute the ball to all the different receivers has been a blessing for us,” Dinan said. “He gives us the balance to throw it and run it.”
Senior receiver Camden Herschberger has a team-high 57 catches for 737 yards. Sophomore Nate Starks is the team’s top rusher with 1,127 yards and seven touchdowns.
“Nate is very skilled and very fast,” Dinan said. “Braden Steely, who plays safety for us, will also line up and take some snaps in the wildcat. We call it our chaos package. You’ll see both in the backfield at the same time, or you’ll see one with the quarterback.”
Steely, a junior, has rushed for 482 yards and a team-high 13 TDs. Sullivan has run for 11 TDs.
“The leadership from the senior class has been tremendous,” Dinan said. “We’re not here if not for the leadership from our seniors.”
There are six seniors starting on offense and seven senior defensive starters.
Carroll has never played Center Grove before, but Dinan views Center Grove as the benchmark.
“They’re back here (in the state final) because of the culture they have and because of coach (Eric) Moore,” Dinan said. “I’m sure they are playing for him. He’s battling things (health issues) as well. When you have situations where you are playing for a cause, kids raise and elevate their games.”
Tonight’s game could prove to be the beginning of a big nonconference rivalry. Dinan said Carroll will play Center Grove in Week 2 of the 2024 regular season, the start of a four-year contract. The Chargers will play Hamilton Southeastern and Warren Central in 2023.
“When we agreed as a (Summit) conference to open Weeks 1 and 2 to play out-of-conference opponents, it was a mindset — let’s go play the best there is,” Dinan said. “The only way we can tell where we’re at is to play those high level schools.”
His team gets to do just that tonight.
HOW THEY GOT HERE
Fort Wayne Carroll’s 2022 season, game by game:
Aug. 19;at FW Luers;W, 42-3
Aug. 26;FW Snider;W, 28-21
Sept. 2;at FW Northside;W, 28-20
Sept. 9;at FW Northrop;W, 38-0
Sept. 16;FW Dwenger;W, 31-0
Sept. 23;FW Southside;W, 58-6
Sept. 30;at Homestead;W, 52-10
Oct. 7;FW Concordia;W, 51-0
Oct. 14;at FW Wayne;W, 45-8
Oct. 28;at Penn (sectional);W, 35-7
Nov. 4;Warsaw (sectional);W, 34-17
Nov. 11;at Lafayette Jeff (regional);W, 21-20
Nov. 18;Hamilton Southeastern (semistate);W, 21-15