Andrean vs. Griffith 2004 Sectional Championship
“Unbelieveable/Unforgettable – Part 2”
Games dubbed the greatest of all time, in their sport, do not spontaneously combust from nothing. Typically, they serve as the crowning moment of a long-running narrative. When Duke’s Christian Laettner hit a buzzer-beater to send his team into the 1992 NCAA Final Four, he did it against a Kentucky program that had clawed its way back from crippling NCAA probation. We remember it as much because of that as we do because of a perfectly executed in-bounds hurl. Carlton Fisk’s home run in the 1975 World Series bought one more day for a beloved franchise that had not won a title in nearly six decades, and he did it against the dynasty of the era, Cincinnati’s “Big Red Machine.” And on it goes.
So it was with local high school football and Andrean-Griffith, who 10 years ago, on the night of November 5, 2004, played the greatest game ever in this Region.
“Those games,” says Hunter Rogowski, a standout on the ’02 and ’03 Griffith squads. “I’ve got goosebumps still taking about them.”
In 2002, in an early regular-season showdown, Andrean had prevailed in overtime 26-23. Finn, a sophomore, had been a wide receiver on that team. After Griffith took a 23-20 lead in overtime, Finn’s second touchdown reception of the night gave his team the victory. Just minutes before, with 14.2 seconds to play, Griffith had executed a hook-and-ladder gadget play for a 70-yard tying touchdown in regulation. A missed extra point sent the game to overtime.
Notably, on Finn’s winning touchdown, Griffith defensive back Rich Lehmann, who would go on to play quarterback against Finn in subsequent match-ups between the teams, including the ’04 game, allegedly sustained a concussion in the Andrean celebration.
“Trampled,” Rogowski says, “I guess you could say.”
Lehmann says he was knocked unconscious.
“I got purposefully kicked in the head, which immediately knocked me out,” Lehmann says today. “Ticked a lot of people off, fueling the rivalry.”
In 2003, the teams met twice. First, in the regular-season, the 59ers again prevailed in overtime, 28-27. Then, in the Class 3A sectional championship game on November 7, Andrean kicker Mark Edwards, who had fumbled a punt snap and missed a point-after touchdown previously in the game, nailed a 46-yard field goal with 1:50 to play to redeem himself and give his undefeated team a 16-14 victory and the title.
There was, among all of the heart-stoppers and instant classics, a single blow-out. It, too, however, would loom large over the sectional championship match-up. Perhaps largest of all.
On October 8, just four weeks prior to the November 5 sectional title game, the same two teams had met in the same time-worn stadium, Griffith’s atmospheric “Boneyard,” named after Griffith’s iconic “wishbone” formation offense. The year before, “This time, it’s personal” T-shirts had sprung up all over town, in advance of the Panthers’ matchup with the 59ers in the sectional title game. Though Griffith carried the rogue reputation – “People were writing about the choirboys against the convicts,” Rogowski recalls of those years, “but we liked it.” – on October 8, 2004, it was Andrean that lost its head.
In the fourth quarter, Griffith went up 42-7 on a 66-yard touchdown run by quarterback Rich Lehmann. The Panthers then attempted a two-point conversion. That wasn’t the end of things, though. Not by a long shot. A quarter later, now ahead 42-14, the Panthers faced a definite punt situation, and lined up that way. Instead, up man Matt Nelleman took the snap, and pitched to punter Jarrod Macak. First down, Panthers.
Shortly after the victory, Griffith coach Russ Radtke was asked if there was bad blood between the two programs.
“What kind of question is that?” Radtke barked, and stared at the ground, incensed.
In the weeks that would follow, Andrean mostly worried about righting its own ship, which was careening badly by the night of the Griffith loss. But as November arrived, and the rematch with the Panthers was finally set, according to Finn, who would only find this out after the fact, coach Brett St. Germain and Kocal engaged in a running inside joke. If, against all odds, the 59ers found themselves winning by a large amount in the fourth quarter, and scored, they wouldn’t merely go for two. They would fake the PAT, and then run it in. It was to be a nifty combination of Griffith’s two memorable twists of the knife in the prior contest.
“I hate to say it, but it was definitely about revenge,” says Ty Harangody, Andrean’s star tight end from that team, who would go on to play at Indiana University. “It’s not like it was a friendly rivalry between us and Griffith. I knew it was going to be an intense game. I knew we were gonna fight hard. But never in a million years would I think it would turn out the way it did.”
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