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The Journal Gazette

  • Doug McSchooler | Special to The Journal Gazette T.J. Tippmann of Bishop Dwenger celebrates after scoring a touchdown for the Saints in the Class 4A state title game Friday at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

Sunday, December 30, 2018 1:00 am

Story of the Year

Dwenger's 4-overtime title-winner gets top vote

Dan Vance | For The Journal Gazette

Other top stories of 2018

2. Central Noble girls basketball won the Class 2A state title on Feb. 24. The Junior Sydney Freeman scored 14 points and had six steals to lead the Cougars to their first state title.

3. Bishop Luers graduate Jaylon Smith became a force in the NFL in his second season playing with the Dallas Cowboys. The highlight: fumble recovery for his first NFL touchdown Dec. 23.

4. The Fort Wayne Komets beat Toledo in a tough series in the Kelly Cup playoffs, but fell in the Western Conference Finals in seven games. The Game 7 loss in Colorado came in overtime 4-3, after the Komets led the game 3-1.

5. Saint Francis' football team saw their quest for three straight national titles with a loss in the national semifinal game. The Cougars went to overtime on a snowy Dec. 1 at Morningside but came up empty on an overtime field-goal attempt.

6. Jessie Bates III was drafted 54th overall by the Cincinnati Bengals in the 2018 NFL Draft. Slated as a backup to start the season, the Snider graduate worked his way into the starting safety position, going on to pick up three interceptions and a touchdown.

7. Carroll graduate Drue Tranquill of Notre Dame was announced as the winner of college football's Wuerffel Trophy, awarded to the sport's player “who best combines exemplary community service with athletic and academic achievement.”

8. The exodus of North Side boys basketball took shape quickly after the Legends' loss to Carmel in Class 4A regional play. Coach Shabaz Khaliq headed to Richmond High School and players Keion Brooks Jr., Lucas and Andrew Kroft, Jalen Causey and Jordan Moore followed him out the door to various locations.

9-tie. The Mastodons kept a little bit of blue, but IPFW's schoolwide overhaul to Purdue Fort Wayne forced changes to the athletic department with new black and gold uniforms and a new floor in the Hilliard Gates Sports Center on campus.

9-tie. Video game fans have long wanted a return from the NBA G-League to their consoles. They got it in a way as the Fort Wayne Mad Ants were featured in NBA 2k19. Fort Wayne fans were not so happy as the storyline mode consistently mocked the Summit City.

9-tie. On Oct. 26, the Canterbury boys soccer team won its second straight state title. Joel Groninger scored on sudden death penalty kicks to lock up the Class 1A title.

Best of the rest

The end of the National Soccer Festival; Komets off to slow start; Dwenger golfer Logan Ryan wins state title; Carroll girls win cross country state title; plans for downtown arena on indefinite hold; Lori Stinson wins Women's City golf title; Mad Ants make playoffs under Pacers ownership; Jason Garrett hired as Bishop Dwenger football coach; five players from Fort Wayne area play in NFL exhibition game between Cincinnati Bengals and Dallas Cowboys; Saint Francis men's basketball team loses in NAIA Division II final.

When T.J. Tippmann crossed the goal line during the fourth overtime of the Class 4A state football title game Nov. 24, Bishop Dwenger had officially completed its fifth state championship run, beating Evansville Central 16-10.

The Saints battled through adversity all year, capped by an impromptu pregame walk through on the Lucas Oil Stadium back room concrete after one of their buses broke down.

That makes it easy to understand why the Saints' title victory is the biggest Fort Wayne sports story of 2018 as voted on by the staff of The Journal Gazette.

The first half of the title game ended 0-0 and set a defensive tone. The teams exchanged rushes and punts without gaining traction. The Saints were called for a pair of big penalties late in the second quarter as the Bears drove to the 15-yard line, but they were stopped short of the goal.

“They had their chances and I felt like we were in a situation where we had our opportunities. At the end of the day, it reminded me of the Wayne (sectional) game where they just played exceptional defense,” Bishop Dwenger coach Jason Garrett said.

For Dwenger, which had run over opponents throughout the season, its passing game was outgaining its running game, 92 yards to 59 at halftime. If they wanted to improve on that, the Saints had to do it without leading rusher Devon Tippmann, who went down in the first half injured. So they had to turn to another Tippmann in T.J.

“It was an unfortunate moment for Devon, but we knew having been there in the past, late in the game getting T.J. in there and letting those guys get the opportunity to finish because of who they had been, who they are and continue to be for our team and our program,” Garrett said.

“It was what it had been throughout the season; it was time to turn to the seniors.”

The best chance of the second half for the Saints was voided. With 3:36 to go, Jacob Boberg of Evansville Central popped out of a long scrum with the ball and Gage Renbarger stripped the ball out, but the officials ruled Boberg down on the play even though the replay appeared to show otherwise. After four quarters and one overtime of scoreless play, each team scored 10 over the next two overtimes.

In the fourth overtime, it was a Charlie Howe interception that put the ball in T.J. Tippmann's hands and he found the end zone.

“In some ways it is very clear, and in other ways it is a blur. We had coined that mantra all season long of trust, unity and toughness. If there was moment that defined and kind of epitomizes what we set out to do and what we meant by that mantra all season long, it was that moment,” Garrett said.

In the month-plus since that day, life has been a celebration for the Saints. Joe Tippmann was named the top player in the SAC and the community has rallied around the moment to make sure the Saints program knew how appreciated it was.

“I think for many people, they know what it means to have our program accomplish what it was able to accomplish. I think they were very thankful and appreciative. Not just for the mere fact that we were able and blessed to win a state championship, but how we went about it: the process that went alongside what we were able to accomplish,” Garrett said.