Photos via Mike Fender
“It was the blink of an eye.”
That’s how Heather Haymaker – mother of Columbus East senior running back Jaedin Miller – described the past four years, as she and her fellow team parents shared their final pregame meal together, in a parking lot across the street from Lucas Oil Stadium in the Friday evening twilight.
RELATED CONTENT: The Power of Football - Columbus East High School
Fifty-two weeks after East walked away with the Class 5A runner-up trophy, following a 16-13 loss to Westfield, the Olympians and their 27-man senior class had one chapter left to write.
The last few years might’ve flown by, but Friday’s conclusion – a 42-28 victory over Kokomo for the 5A crown – provided a benchmark that East players will strive to reach for generations to come.
East moved up to 5A three seasons ago due to the success of past teams, including the 2013 Olympians, who won the 4A title. Many of those players were in attendance Friday night, as were seniors from last year’s squad, which fell just shy of its ultimate goal.
“A lot of those kids who were here last year and who graduated reached out to us this week,” East coach Bob Gaddis said. “This was a great program win by this team. I’m really proud of them.”
The path for this year’s seniors had its peaks and valleys. As sophomores, they met fellow unbeaten and defending 4A champ New Palestine for a sectional title, and fell 24-14 to the eventual 5A runners-up. Last season, they avenged that defeat in a 28-point triumph and rolled all the way to Lucas Oil, where their season ended in crushing defeat.
East defenders Jonah Wichman (12) and Julian Greenwell make a stop
When the page turned to this season, only one ending would satisfy the Olympians.
“Walking out of here last year, we knew we had to go to the offseason ready,” running back Jamon Hogan said. “We got in the weight room and worked hard. It was all about getting back here, because we knew we could do it.”
With two teams determined to run the ball, Saturday’s game was East’s quickness versus Kokomo’s size.
East led 21-14 at the break after touchdown runs by Hogan, Miller and quarterback Josh Major, and a key fumble recovery by defensive back Caleb Pettit off a strip from end Ty Henderson.
At halftime, Gaddis challenged his team.
The Olympians came out ready to put it away in the second half.
While the East defense blanked Kokomo in the third quarter, a 44-yard TD pass from Major to Klayton Brummett gave the Olympians (14-1) a 14-point lead entering the fourth.
Klayton Brummett crosses the goal line for a big TD
In the final period, Miller had a 40-yard score, and on the ensuing possession, Henderson and linebacker Nash Murphy both had sacks to halt a potential Kokomo (9-5) theat.
“That really gave us the momentum at the end of the game to seal the deal,” Henderson said.
Miller, who finished with 132 yards on 18 carries, added his third TD with two minutes left to ice it. Miller, Hogan and Major also added a bit of history.
Columbus East's Jaedin Miller (132 yards), Jamon Hogan (112) and Josh Major (107) became the first trio from the same team to eclipse 100 yards each in any state championship game. @Col_East_Sports #IHSAA— IHSAA (@IHSAA1) November 25, 2017
As he waited to receive his championship medal, like his mom, Miller said his time at East went quickly.
“It flew by. Everything was worth it in the end,” he said. “This feeling is absolutely unbelievable.”
East lineman Zach Clark embraces Jaedin Miller after one of his two fourth-quarter scores
Congratulations and thank you to Columbus East, and to Indiana's Fort Wayne Snider and Knightstown, Nebraska's Pius X and Grand Island, and Aloha in Oregon, for letting USA Football show the true Power of Football this season.
Power of Football, a program powered by USA Football, highlights how the game continues to lift and capture the imagination of students, families and towns across America, unifying them in exceptional ways and transcending societal differences. Watch the stories of six high schools across the U.S. at poweroffootball.org, and share your own stories on social media, using the hashtag #PowerofFootball.