BERNE – For years, the South Adams football class of 2021 believed they could be the ones to take the Starfires' program to places it had never been.
They made it happen Friday night, beating Lafayette Central Catholic 42-9 in the Class A semistate championship, earning South Adams its first trip to the state title game.
“I am so excited. This means so much to our community, more than I think we even realized,” senior quarterback James Arnold said. “I can't go five minutes in the hallways at school without a teacher stopping me, telling me how excited they are for the game. In the community, everywhere we go, there are signs up, windows painted. It means so much to our community, and I'm so glad we could do it for them.”
Head coach Grant Moser, who grew up in Berne and played for the Starfires as a high schooler, said the next week leading up to the state championship “will be like a weeklong Swiss Days.”
“It really is hard to put into words. I remember coming to games here as a little kid,” Moser said. “Growing up in this program, I had a love of Starfire football. This group of seniors had so much pressure, so much hype around them, for the last six years, since middle school, and I'm so proud of their maturity, to come and actually do this.”
The early minutes of Friday night's game gave no hint of the blowout to come. Lafayette Central Catholic, the defending Class A state champion, marched down the field on their opening drive, though the Starfires defense did stop them on third down. The Knights kicked a 30-yard field goal just over a minute into the game to take a 3-0 lead.
The Starfires' first drive looked like it would be over when they were stopped on 3rd and 8, but after a timeout Moser changed his mind and decided to go for it. The result was a pass from Arnold to tight end Nick Miller, who caught the pass along the opposing sideline and refused to be tackled on a 40-yard touchdown that put the Starfires up 7-3.
From there, the two teams traded turnovers, with the Knights fumble followed by a fumble by Drew Stutzman, and a Trey Schoch interception followed by a Knights interception of Arnold. The Starfires weren't forced to pay for the final interception, as the Lafayette Central Catholic field goal attempt was low and no good.
At 8:41 in the second quarter, Christian Summersett broke through the line for an 11-yard touchdown carry, concluding a drive on which he took the ball on all but one play and giving the Starfires a 14-3 lead, which they would still hold at halftime.
The Starfires laid down the law 40 seconds into the third quarter, as James targeted Trey Schoch along the Starfires sideline. He paused for a second as he caught the pass around the 50-yard line, spun to avoid a Knights defender and then sprinted for 50 yards for a 65-yard touchdown play to put South Adams up 21-3.
“It's awesome. They weren't long passes, he just broke tackles and made big plays,” Arnold said. “That's a quarterback's best friend. You throw short, and they turn it into a long play. It makes you look good, so I appreciate it.”
The Starfires ended the next Knights drive with an interception by Aiden Wanner, and at 9:13 in the third quarter Nick Miller carried the ball the final few inches for a touchdown that put South Adams up 28-3.
Summersett had another touchdown carry at 3:23 in the third quarter that put South Adams up 42-3, invoking the running clock. Long after most of the starting lineup had been pulled from the game, Baylor Smith of Lafayette Central Catholic scored on a 17-yard run to make it 42-9.