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Community West Side News

Giants claim 10th IHSAA football crown

Ben Davis makes set history in impressive fashion

Ben Davis football reached 10 state titles this past Saturday, November 25. This date has been on the Giants calendar for months.

This victory had been on the Giants agenda for a long time. Lucas Oil Stadium will forever be a historical moment for the 2023 champions.

¨Yes sir. No other team I´d rather be with than my brothers,¨ senior Nylan Brown said after being asked by a referee if he was having fun during the third quarter.

The Giants took a 38-10 victory against Crown Point in the Class 6A football state championship game, ending the season 13-1.

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After dethroning Center Grove for the semistate title, the Giants worked extremely hard throughout the week to achieve the 10th state title. Before November 25 you would hear 10 in the weight room, on the field, and in the locker room. Coach Kevin Vanderbush, who stood alongside Ben Davis for 40 years, can assure you it was no easy feat.

The on-field win wasn’t the only victory Giants attained this night — they also become the first public school to win a 10th state football title in IHSAA history. Being led to state by first-year head coach Russ Mann is definitely a victory in itself as he is the sixth first year head coach to accomplish this feat.

Senior Zane Skibinski took charge of leading Ben Davis with a 32-yard touchdown catch to open scoring. A field goal from both Ben Davis and Crown Point resulted in a 10-3 halftime score. After setting the tone during the first half, the Giants left the field satisfied with their efforts.

Two minutes into the third quarter junior running back Alijah Price got a 49 yard rushing touchdown raising the score to 16-3. Senior Benjamin Rudolph got the extra point putting the Giants at 17-3 minutes after the third quarter began.

This was a huge night for Price as he got a 3 yard rushing touchdown only five minutes after his first touchdown. As the score sat at 23-3 and soon thereafter 24-3 with an extra point from Rudolph.

As the team cheered and the energy soared through the crowd, the Giants anticipated their 10th state championship title.

Senior Yassine Falke intercepted a Crown Point pass putting the ball on our own 32 yard line with three minutes left in the third quarter.

Next was a 41 yard pass from senior Thomas Gotkowski to senior Tyler McClain with two minutes left in the third quarter. This touchdown was called back for an illegal forward pass. Gotkowski had a quick recovery with a pass to senior Cameron Morrison, who ran the ball for 3 yards, and then a pass to Skibinski for 11 yards. A backwards lateral to sophomore Jei´Vyair Horton, who passed to wide open junior Mark Zackery, sealed the deal for the state champs. This touchdown raised Giants to 30-3 with an extra point from Rudolph to make it 31-3.

Minutes after the fourth quarter began, senior Toreeq Oyesigi intercepted a Crown Point pass and had the ball on the Crown Point 14 yard line. On the next play Gotkowski had a 14 yard pass to Skibinski, who celebrated in the endzone for the final touchdown of the game. An extra point from Rudolph put us at 38-3.

With seven minutes left on the clock, senior Alvin Contreras intercepted a Crown Point pass bringing the ball to our 25 yard line.

With two minutes Crown Point scored on a 1 yard rushing touchdown that made it 38-10.

Ben Davis dominated the second half of the game with four touchdowns and four extra points. Skibinski and Price got two touchdowns each and Zackery got one touchdown.

Although the score was out of reach late in the third quarter, the Giants never got comfortable or careless. The months of hard work put into this program would not go to waste in the final minutes of the season. Our players came off the field proud and content with what they´d accomplished.

¨I could tell last year when I got this job that this senior class was special,” Mann said. “They were willing to put in the time and effort it takes to win state and I could see that early. This senior class is special in that regard. I have not been around a group that works as hard as they did.¨

This team is definitely a special one, they came a long way from the opening game against Archbishop Moeller. Driving two hours away from our home stadium to end in a 49-28 win was foreshadowing to what the rest of the season would be like.

Playing against Avon and Pike in between was no stress to the Giants. Facing nationally ranked IMG Academy was a big challenge very early on in the season.

Week 5 was the West vs East side rivalry (Warren Central), which is a game that always attracts a large crowd. Lawrence North and Carmel were no trouble for the Giants. Lawrence Central was a tough game but nothing that our dedicated players couldn´t handle. Our win against North Central made us MIC champions for the second year in a row.

The evening of October 8 had players excited, but fans anxious. Drawing Brownsburg for the first round of playoffs was expected by some and came as a shock to others.

It was no easy game considering we didn’t play them in the regular season. As Brownsburg controlled the game for the first three quarters everyone in the crowd was worried our season was going to end on October 28. After being down by 18 our Giants made an exceptional comeback leading us to win the first round of sectionals. Defeating Brownsburg was only the beginning of our state journey.

The next week we’d have another blow out against Pike. Winning the sectional championship was only a fraction of the victories we planned to get this season.

The regional game against Cathedral was definitely one for the books. Going touchdown for touchdown we became equal on the scoreboard. A field goal from Rudolph with less than three minutes to go made us regional champions. After such a close game, the Giants prepared to play against Center Grove, another team we no longer played in the regular season. Going into overtime with a winning touchdown by senior Nate Williams, the Giants took home the semistate championship title.

All that was left now was 11/25/23 — the date recorded in the minds of the entire Ben Davis football program. Although the state game was a blowout there was never a moment where even our best players gave out. They put everything into their last moments playing. It was a long journey to being the Class 6A state champions.

¨We knew we could do something special coming into the season. It was just a matter of working hard and trusting each other,¨ senior linebacker Drew Evans said.

Mission accomplished.

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