ZIONSVILLE – Not many people predicted the Zionsville football team to claim the Sectional 5 championship when the brackets came out.
But that didn’t matter one bit to the Eagles. They believed, and that’s all that mattered.
And in the end, it was that belief that carried to the Eagles to the sectional title, upsetting Brownsburg 44-41 to claim the sectional title.
“I don’t know if I could be prouder of all of our players and staff,” Zionsville head coach Scott Turnquist said. “They never gave up, the coaches kept the guys going and stayed positive throughout the game. We had a fantastic game plan tonight and our kids executed it exceptionally well.”
Zionsville had lost to the Bulldogs 54-14 on Oct. 2.
But from the opening quarter, this game was destined to be different. Garrett Williamson scored from a yard out to put the Eagles up 7-0, and the game was tied 7-7 at the end of one.
“One of the big things is we got healthier,” Turnquist said. “Then in the last couple of weeks of the regular season, we started to generate momentum, and were improving every week, we just weren’t getting the results. But our kids continued to fight, stayed the course and got the big win.”
It was that run at the end of the year, which included narrow loses to Avon and Fishers, plus a sectional-opening win against Pike, that gave the Eagles the belief they could play with anyone.
“That belief is such a huge deal,” Turnquist said. “If you don’t believe you can do it, you have no chance. It’s a huge credit to our seniors, who really facilitated that belief, they hung in there, stayed the course and it was really nice to see them take the lead and lead us to this win.”
Brownsburg went up 21-7 on two Donny Marcus touchdown runs, but the Eagles clawed back to within 21-17.
Cole Wiseman connected with Brody Whitesell on a 36-yard touchdown pass and Chris Freeman hit a 42-yard field goal.
Brownsburg tried to pull away again, getting touchdowns on either side of halftime to go up 35-17 early in the third quarter.
But the Eagles didn’t quit.
Williamson scored again on a 5-yard run, and after a big blocked put by Dom Vechiarella, the Eagles scored on a 9-yard pass from Wiseman to Luke Baumgartner to cut it to 35-30.
Wiseman, who missed nearly the entire sectional opener with an ankle injury, was 13 of 20 for more than 295 yards and three scores.
“Cole is a gamer and a tough competitor,” Turnquist said. “We really weren’t sure what he could do tonight. He maybe wasn’t fully ready to do everything, but that is just a testament to him and the work he puts in.”
Brownsburg scored on its opening drive of the fourth quarter, going up 41-30.
Williamson, who hadn’t had a rushing attempt all season, scored his third touchdown of the game to get the Eagles’ within 41-36 after they missed the two-point conversion.
The Eagles defense then rose to the occasion, forcing a Bulldog punt to give the offense the ball back on their own 15 with 1:57 to go.
“That was huge from our defense,” Turnquist said. “Brownsburg had a big play to get a first down and were trying to grind out the clock. Our guys hung in there and got a huge stop. We had so many big plays tonight that they all kind of blur together. It was just a fantastic game from our kids.”
The Eagles needed barely a minute to march down the field.
Whitesell made a fantastic juggling catch for a 49-yard gain and three plays later the Eagles were in the end zone, scoring on a 24-yard pass from Wiseman to Camden Cooper for the lead.
The 44 points scored by Zionsville were the most the Bulldogs have allowed all season.
“Against a team like Brownsburg, we knew we had to score,” Turnquist said. “This was a total team effort, from offense, defense and special teams. We were a little opportunistic tonight, and that’s what you have to be in the post-season.”
The Eagles will host Ben Davis next Friday night in the regional.
The Giants topped Southport to win the sectional title.
“We have the 24-hour rule,” Turnquist said. “We want the kids to enjoy this, and there’s a lot of celebrate, but we have a lot to improve on next week. Just like the regular season, we want to take everything in, and then use it to improve next week.”