The Westfield High School football team began and ended the season by losing to the two teams most observers considered the best in the state.
In between, the Shamrocks won 12 consecutive games. Westfield lost to Class 5A state champion Cathedral 56-20 in the season opener. Then the Class 6A No. 2 Shamrocks lost to No. 1 Center Grove 38-14 in the Class 6A state title game Nov. 27 at Lucas Oil Stadium. Center Grove finished 14-0, and Cathedral’s only loss was 17-13 to Center Grove.
“It was an amazing season,” Shamrocks coach Jake Gilbert said.
The Shamrocks (12-2) won the Hoosier Crossroads Conference at the varsity, junior varsity and freshman levels.
“(This is) the first team that we’ve had make it to the 6A championship and the first HCC team to make it to 6A championship,” said Gilbert, whose team won the Class 5A title in 2016.
“We lost two games to two great teams and won 30 others as a program (including JV and freshman),” Gilbert said. “I couldn’t be happier with the season overall. In addition to all that, we had people close to our program pass away. We have four people in our program with cancer. We’ve had all kinds of adversity. We had a couple of varsity players who weren’t here to play because of COVID. I think we showed tremendous resolve. It’s tremendous character by our kids.
“I think the gratitude of hoping we have a season, period, just really manifested itself with tremendous unselfishness and care for each other. Every day we just had a great attitude to be out here.”
Although the final result wasn’t what he wanted, Gilbert did like what he saw from his team after halftime against the Trojans. Center Grove led 38-7 after two quarters.
“They’re an amazing football team,” Gilbert said. “They’re very physical. We wore down defensively. We couldn’t manufacture any drives so our defense was out there a long time. That’s what they do to teams. They give you an onslaught and you have to survive it. We didn’t quite do that in the first half. The second half we tackled better. We managed to run the football. I just think we showed tremendous toughness.
“I was happy and proud of the effort our kids played with in the second half.”
Junior quarterback Maximus Webster said Gilbert encouraged the team at halftime.
“We kept fighting,” Webster said. “Coach Gilbert told us no matter what the score says, give it your all and do it for the guys next to you and do it for the people in the stands.”
Webster said the returning players will remember the sting of losing the state title game.
“It puts a chip on our shoulder because we don’t want to feel this, for sure,” Webster said. “We’ll get right back to work.”
Webster threw for 155 yards, including a 38-yard touchdown pass to senior Mason Piening (seven catches for 111 yards)
Junior running back/defensive back Micah Hauser, who played on an injured left ankle, rushed for a team-high 118 yards on 11 carries to push his season total to 1,059 yards.
“He’s a tough son of a gun,” Gilbert said.
Hauser wouldn’t have missed it.
“This group has been growing up dreaming about this state championship,” Hauser said. “It didn’t end with the result we wanted, but even being here is a blessing.”
Westfield defensive back Benji Welch won the Mental Attitude Award for Class 6A. Welch plans to study ministry at Taylor University.
“We’re going to miss some great players as seniors,” Gilbert said “But, in general, the class had to be so all in to take us to this level to be Class 6A state runner-up. It wasn’t that long ago we were way smaller. We’re growing up fast. I’m happy where the program is and I’m excited for the future. We bring back a lot of players. We’re not going anywhere.”