The Carroll High School community came together Oct. 21 to congratulate the school’s Unified flag football team on its runner-up finish at this year’s Indiana High School Athletic Association State Finals in Westfield on Oct. 24.
Carroll is one of 32 teams currently competing in the co-ed sport, which pairs students with and without intellectual disabilities to compete together in a team setting. Carroll is just the fifth program in the state to make it to the championship, which was first held in 2018.
“It was my dream to go to state. I was hoping to get a win, but in my opinion, we’re always going to be a winner either way,” Carroll senior Logan Smith said.
Smith and his Carroll teammates took part in a Walk of Champions Oct. 21, carrying the runner-up trophy through the halls of the school to cheers from fellow students and teachers.
“Getting to see these kids clapping for us, we know that the Chargers are always by us,” he said.
Smith and teammate Casey Bane were the winners of the inaugural Bobby Cox Spirit of Unified Mental Attitude Award during this year’s state finals. The award is given to a Unified Athlete and a Unified Partner Athlete from the same school each year.
“The bus ride there, the trip down and playing in the big Colts practice facility was super cool,” Bane said. “I know all the players enjoyed it, and although we didn’t win, after it we could see in the pictures we all had a good time. Everyone’s smiling anyway.”
The championship was played between Carroll and McCutcheon at the Grand Park Sports Campus, the host of the Colts training camp. The Mavericks won for the second year in a row, 44-34. It was the first time the Chargers made it to the final round of competition, but the program has now won three sectional titles and one regional title.
“I think a lot goes back to the coaches and the atmosphere Carroll has,” Bane said. “Everyone around really supports the program, and I think it really affects all the players and the motivation that goes into it. Everyone gets really fired up for it, and it’s a big deal, so that just makes everyone work a little harder.”
For many Carroll students, the Champions Together program — which also includes basketball and track and field — is an opportunity to compete in a sport they wouldn’t otherwise get to play at the high school level. Bane said even though it’s about having fun, the sport does get “pretty competitive.”
“Football is one of my favorite sports to watch and play, and it’s just been a great opportunity to do it,” Smith said.
Following the Walk of Champions, the team presented the trophy to Athletic Director Dan Ginder, who hung it in one of the trophy cases outside the Charger Fieldhouse. Players were also sized for state runner-up rings, which they are expected to receive in the coming months.
“It feels amazing to have that trophy up there, because my kids, if they come to school, I’m going to look at that trophy and be like ‘Kids, your father got that trophy for a reason,’” Smith said.