Starting a tradition

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Shamrocks finish football season as state runner-up

By Ron Hermann

Tradition is defined as a long-established or inherited way of thinking or acting. The Westfield High School football team finished up the best season in school history on Nov. 29 in the Class 5A state championship game at Lucas Oil Stadium. Although they lost to Cathedral 42-18 to finish 12-2 on the season, the hope is that a greater good was established: a winning football tradition.

Westfield’s surrounded with neighboring communities that have such tradition. Look at Sheridan to the west, Carmel to the south, Fishers and Hamilton Southeastern to the east, and Hamilton Heights to the north. All possess a tremendous football tradition. Was this the year the Rocks finally turned the corner?

“After being here for so many years and being the smallest school in the conference, not having many winning seasons, it’s just fun to win,” said WHS Principal Stacy McGuire. “I’m a Westfield High School graduate, my father is and my grandmother is, so our family’s been around for a long time. I just feel like what this championship run has done is bring a sense of pride to this school, but I also feel like it has united the community.”

Mayor Andy Cook echoed those sentiments and added that he thinks the winning is here to stay.

“This administration has really focused on building a sense of community because there really wasn’t much of that six, eight years ago. Experiences like this state game, seeing such a huge crowd, it does a whole lot for the city,” Cook said. “I think with Coach (Jake) Gilbert, and his philosophies, they’re going to be back there next year. And their run to the top is not going to be an overnight sensation. And that’s what we want to see. We want to see a sustained scholastic and athletic quality!”

Cook – and Westfield – wants a tradition. And it seems the ’Rocks are heading in the right direction. Gilbert led this team to a state runner-up finish in only his third season and thanked his predecessors, including former coach Bo Belden, for laying the foundation for the program. Upon arriving at Westfield, Gilbert felt the ’Rocks really didn’t know how to win. He has worked hard to change that culture and to create an expectation of winning, which is why this year’s success is such an important step.

“We just needed time to improve physically to compete on this schedule. Our strength and speed caught up and so did our resolve and confidence,” he said. “I am just so proud of our kids and of Westfield in general. I love this team and I’m honored to coach these kids and to live in Westfield.”

2013 5A state runner-up Westfield Shamrocks – that’s an incredible achievement. But will the ’Rocks be able to maintain success like Cook believes, and so many fans want? WHS senior captain Zane Burtron thinks so.

“I believe the program is in great shape for the future. Coach Gilbert does a great job of making leaders and I believe that there is a lot of talent at every level of our program. I am excited to see what these future teams are made of,” he said.

“I’m excited for our future,” Gilbert said. “We graduate a lot (of players), especially on defense, but we have some outstanding players returning and some great young players as well. The question will be, ‘Who will step up and carry the torch?’”

Westfield will just have to wait and see.




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