The Zionsville Community High School football coaching staff emphasized seniors needed to embrace a specific attitude this season, regardless of what happened – move on to the next play.
“Especially down the stretch, whether it was a great play or a bad play, they were able to compartmentalize it and move on,” Eagles coach Scott Turnquist said. “That’s something the younger kids could see and start to emulate. Once we got everyone pulling in that direction, it made a huge difference.”
Heading into the regular-season finale, the Eagles had lost three consecutive games as their record dropped to 3-5. Zionsville blasted Fishers 38-7 to end the regular season and then proceeded to win three games to reach the Class 5A state championship game. The Eagles beat No. 8 Harrison 33-21 in the sectional and then won the sectional when McCutcheon forfeited due to COVID-19 cases. Zionsville then upset No. 2 Fort Wayne Dwenger 30-21 in the regional and No. 3 Valparaiso 27-9 in the semistate.
The Eagles, who finished 7-6, preceded to give No. 1 Cathedral some anxious moments before losing 46-28 Nov. 28 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
Turnquist said his team kept battling after falling behind 22-0 in the first half.
“I thought we even gave ourselves a chance to possibly win the game until we weren’t quite able to turn the corner,” Turnquist said.
Turnquist said the big victory over Fishers was a huge confidence builder heading into the postseason.
“We knew we had potential to do some big things in the postseason,” he said. “We knew we had talent and our defense was staring to play good football, which we saw throughout the postseason.”
Turnquist said the team practiced well during the bye week before playing Harrison.
“When we saw the fruits of that labor, beating a good Harrison team, the guys really benefited from that,” he said.
Senior wide receiver Luke Baumgartner said reaching the state final was an extremely satisfying way for the seniors to end their careers.
“I think for us seniors to step up and play the way we did added a level of confidence to the way we played throughout the postseason,” Baumgartner said. “My senior teammates and I have had to overcome so much adversity throughout the years, whether it be people quitting on us or COVID to get to the point where we were. So for us to go out and play the way we did, it definitely has made us proud of ourselves and each other.
“We also couldn’t be more proud of the underclassmen who bought in and had a big role in our success. Overall, this senior class did something special, and we couldn’t be much more satisfied with our results.”
Scout team provided boost
Senior Zionsville wide receiver Luke Baumgartner said the scout team gave the starters a boost.
“Our scout teams continued to show up to practice every day to help the varsity team,” Baumgarnter said. “They gave us great looks and never quit. They bought in and clearly worked harder than the other teams’ scout players to help us succeed. But I also believe the leadership by our coaching staff really pushed us in the right direction. Coach Turnquist and (assistant) coach (Larry) McWhorter both had great game plans for both sides of the ball for every game.”
Turnquist served as an assistant under former ZCHS head coach McWhorter from 2006-10. After losing his teaching job due to budget cuts, Turnquist became a Carmel assistant from 2011 to 2018.
McWhorter, who left Zionsville to start Covenant Christian’s football program in 2014, returned as an assistant when Turnquist became coach in 2019.
The state finals appearance was Zionsville’s first since 1996, when it won the Class3A title under McWhorter.
Baumgartner entered the game against Cathedral with three touchdown catches in the team’s first 12 games. Baumgartner and Cathedral’s Camden Jordan each caught three touchdown passes to tie a Class 5A state championship game record. Baumgartner had nine catches for 153 yards for team highs of 46 catches and 634 yards.
Senior quarterback Josh Stone, who threw for 304 yards and four TDs against Cathedral, concluded with 1,913 yards and 22 TD passes.
Some key players return
The Eagles will lose six senior starters on defense and five on offense.
“We’ll have some guys to replace, but we’ll have good, solid pieces as well,” Turnquist said. “We’ll get our entire linebacking group back. We’ll lose four on the defensive line but we’ll have some kids that rotated in that got great experience. We’ll have rebuilding to do at certain spots.”
One of the key returnees is junior center Joey Tanona, who has committed to Notre Dame. The Eagles will return their top rusher, junior Colin Price, who ran 1,265 yards on the season.
Junior A.J. Vinatieri, son of ex-Indianapolis Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri, was the Eagles’ punter and placekicker.
“In my opinion, he’s an elite-level punter,” Turnquist said. “He had a phenomenal year.”
Junior Lucas Lodics, who started the year as the placekicker, continued to do kickoffs after Vinatieri took over for field goals and PATs later in the season. Turnquist said he is delighted to have both returning.
Zionsville got one more win after the game when senior defensive end Zach Bielecki was named the Mental Attitude Award for Class 5A.