By Mark Ambrogi
Following a 2-3 start, the Carmel High School football players heard the doubters.
All of them were outside the locker room.
“No one else believed in us, so we knew we had to believe in ourselves,” senior tight end Kurt Rafdal said.
The Greyhounds dug in.
“We knew it was going to be a long road ahead of us,” senior defensive lineman Britt Beery said. “We came in every day and worked our tails off in the weight room, in practice and watching film in our free time. It just all added to the great momentum that we brought into the rest of the season.”
Momentum that concluded with the Class 6A No. 7 Greyhounds’ 16-13 overtime victory over No. 3 Center Grove in the 6A state championship game Nov. 25 at Lucas Oil Stadium.
“I’m proud of these kids no matter what they do,” Carmel second-year coach John Hebert said. “I want it badly for them. But it’s about the journey. You just have to have faith they’ve learned the lessons and they’ve grown up and they’re going to get it done. I just had faith in them.”
Carmel (10-4) opened the postseason by avenging a season-opening loss to Hamilton Southeastern and ended it by avenging a week three loss to the Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference rival Trojans (12-2).
“It’s always rough starting off the season in what people would think is a bad note,” senior offensive lineman Mark Stickford said. “You just have to believe all the way through the season. Everyone doubted us (against Center Grove), everyone thought it would be a blowout, but we kept fighting and got the win.”
Stickford is headed to play at Purdue next season. Beery and Rafdal have committed to Indiana University. Other committed players are senior receivers Jalen Walker (University of Cincinnati) and Ethan Merriweather (Ball State).
Carmel earned its eighth state championship, its first since winning the 5A crown in 2011. The Greyhounds lost in the 6A final in 2013 and 2014.