Tri-West rallies to defeat Andrean, 49-27, and claim the 3A Indiana state football title

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INDIANAPOLIS — Wesley Cook rushed for 218 yards on 14 carries with three touchdowns and returned the second half kick-off for a touchdown as Tri-West Hendricks defeated Andrean, 49-27, on Saturday in the Class 3A state football finals.

It was a long road through the tournament for the Bruins, who played six post-season games, four against top 12 opponents. They won their first 3A crown by toppling the top-ranked Fighting 59ers, earning the most combined points in 3A history.

"It was the motivation that people didn't believe in us," Bruins quarterback Jake Hendershot said. "I think that kept something in our hearts. We had to show everyone that we can win (meaningful) football games in 3A."

The fifth-ranked Bruins are in their fourth 3A season and had won state titles in 2A (2003 and 2004) and A (1996).

With the scored tied at 21, Tri-West's Cook received the second half kick-off at his 11-yard line. The junior darted up the middle of the field, splitting a pair of defenders and getting past the kicker for the 89-yard game-winning touchdown.

"It was a great feeling," Cook said. "It was a great way to start the second half."

The run broke a 25-year-old 3A record and provided the momentum that allowed the Bruins (14-1) to take that 28-21 lead out to 42-21 early in the fourth quarter.

Cook finished with 218 yards on 14 carries with three touchdowns, a pair from 2 yards out and a 59-yarder. The junior accounted for three of the four Bruins second-half touchdowns.

But it took some time for Tri-West to find its rhythm.

Hendershot, who said they came out uptight to open the game, completed 22 of his 33 passes for 279 yards and a touchdown. He also ran for 15 yards and a fourth-quarter score. His passing output set an 11-year-old 3A record.

Hendershots' top targets were Payton Hendershot, with seven catches for 99 yards, and Casey Coll, with seven catches for 90 yards and a touchdown.

Andrean (14-1) sprinted out to a 14-0 lead on a pair of Jake Paliga touchdown passes, the first to Jamie Johnson and the second to David Graham. The senior quarterback was 12 of 36 for 237 yards with an interception and three touchdowns. Johnson added another touchdown reception and finished with 120 receiving yards.

Tri-West answered with a run of its own as the Bruins reeled off 21-straight points to take a 21-14 lead with less than five minutes to play in the first half. Then Andrean scored a touchdown to close out the half.

"We just didn't play our best game today, and we ran into a team that was ready to play its best game," Niners coach Phil Mason said. "(Tri-West) brought it, and they capitalized on mistakes. I think we were a little worn out, but we had a great run."

The Niners had their 29-game winning streak, including 11-straight tournament wins, snapped. Their last loss was in the 2012 semistate round, 743 days ago.

"We kept emphasizing to the kids that we just needed to settle down and play," Bruins coach Chris Coll said. "We've been in some tough situations this year. And they don't shy away from it (adversity). We knew we were playing an outstanding team.

"We just needed to settle down and play."

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