REGGIE HAYES: Sectional champ Saints feed off Dwenger tradition
Chip Clark thought back to the video about “Dwenger Tradition” and hesitated.
The television stations wanted the senior running back to take his helmet off for a postgame interview after Bishop Dwenger’s 41-20 win over Wayne in the Class 4A sectional championship Friday at Bishop D’Arcy Stadium. But in the video, watched by the Saints on the Monday before the 2017 playoffs began, it was spelled out clearly. Helmets stay on, from start to finish, from the bus upon arrival back to the bus upon departure.
“Coach, they want me to take my helmet off,” Clark said to coach Chris Svarczkopf.
Svarczkopf gave Clark and quarterback Patrick O’Keefe the OK to remove their helmets for their interviews.
If there’s one thing Clark and his teammates don’t want to do, it’s mess with tradition.
The Saints (9-3) are headed to the regional next week, to play at Angola (12-0). Dwenger, always a postseason threat, is back on track in a big way.
For Clark, who rushed for 94 yards and three touchdowns Friday, it all goes back to the video.
“It was a reminder and an energizer for us,” Clark said. “After seeing that video, that was the best practice we ever had. After that, we’ve been clicking.”
After being embarrassed in a 42-0 loss to Homestead and coming up one play short in a 28-24 loss to Carroll, Dwenger has steadily become a better team. The Saints were the closest of any team to beating Snider, losing 34-31.
“We’re definitely improving everywhere,” defensive tackle Jacob Fabini said, helmet on and chin strap snapped.
Wayne struck first Friday, putting together a 65-yard scoring drive and going up 7-0 after a 2-yard touchdown run by Dalyn Hart.
By late in the first half, Dwenger had staked a 21-7 lead on two Clark touchdowns and a 38-yard scoring strike from O’Keefe to Griffin Eifert. But Wayne then went 65 yards in 1:40 – primarily on Sean Poindexter to Craig Young passes, including a TD pass – to draw within 21-14 at the half.
“They were very well prepared, they showed us some things we weren’t ready for and they came out and scored right away,” Svarczkopf said. “It was still a close game at halftime, too, but turnovers made the difference.”
The biggest turnover came after Wayne had stuffed Dwenger’s offense and forced a punt with 9:20 left in the third. Poindexter’s first pass after Wayne took possession was intercepted by Bradley Black at the Wayne 38.
Clark came up with a big first-down run on 4th-and-one, Tommy Steele broke away for a 25-yard run and T.J. McGarry powered in for a score and a 28-14 lead.
Wayne threatened right away, with John Allen taking a 35-yard run to the Dwenger 23. But Fabini would finish off that drive with a fourth-down tackle-for-loss of Poindexter. The Saints then went up 35-14 on Clark’s third touchdown, set up in part by former quarterback Eddie Morris’ 17-yard run.
“This has been a great group to work with,” Svarczkopf said. “They have shown fantastic leadership and come together as a team. We asked a lot of guys to change positions and do different things. It’s been nothing but great camaraderie. This group is a lot of fun to work with.”
Wayne, which was struck by injuries in the game to Hart and offensive lineman Lukas Fender, finished the season 5-7.
The sectional title is the 24th in Dwenger history, ranking fourth all time behind Carmel (29), Snider (26) and Indianapolis Chatard (26).
Dwenger is tied with Carmel for the most regional championships with 19.
Clark and friends hope to keep their helmets on, and keep up that tradition.
This column is the commentary of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of The News-Sentinel. Email Reggie Hayes at email@example.com.