Central Indiana’s best players talk about hometown pride

There’s a new energy at the start of every high school football season. It’s the start of something new. A new school year. A new season. The opportunity for some teams to change fortunes and others to keep to raise the level of already well-established traditions.

It’s also a chance for us to do something new. Our “First and 10” project, coordinated by award-winning photojournalists Grace Hollars and Robert Scheer, captures 10 of Central Indiana’s top high school football players away from the field and in their hometown or near school. Each of the players explains what playing for their respective schools on Friday night means to them.

We hope you enjoy this new feature as we prepare for the 2022 high school football season:

Speedway senior running back Deejay McFerson pictured Friday, July 22, 2022, at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis.
Grace Hollars/Indy Star

School: Speedway

Position: Athlete

To classify: Senior

Middle School: Undecided

What does it mean to you to play for Speedway? “Becoming a Sparkplug means a lot to me because I met a lot of great people around me who helped me become who I am today. When I started little league for Speedway, my coach was Jake Beyer, and he’s still my high school coach and made me a better player with my teammates who are still the same teammates I play with now Saying all this is because I’ve only met people I i want to surround myself and that they are just family so every friday night with my brothers is very personal because we are still the underdogs so we will keep working and accomplishing what we know what he gotta do and get that state championship.

Nick Patterson
Mooresville senior quarterback Nick Patterson (9) pictured Tuesday July 12, 2022 in the Mooresville countryside.
Grace Hollars/Indy Star

School: Mooresville

Position: QC

To classify: Senior

Middle School: Undecided

What does playing for Mooresville mean to you? “I love it. The Curry Crazies (student section) bring the energy on Friday nights and the coaching staff gives us confidence. It’s surreal when I see little children shouting my name. It’s like I’m famous but i’m not famous but it feels good and it gives me a lot of confidence I will definitely miss it because nothing is better than Friday night lights Winning is fun and it’s a fun environment for us in Mooresville.

leighton jones
Brownsburg senior offensive lineman Leighton Jones (65) pictured Tuesday July 5, 2022 at Mizell's Barber Shop in Brownsburg.
Grace Hollars/Indy Star

School: Brownsburg

Position: offensive line

To classify: Senior

Middle School: Iowa

What does playing for Brownsburg mean to you? “To me, Brownsburg is a football town. As a kid, I grew up counting the days until I could be the high school football player coming out of the tunnel with smoke. The citywide tradition of showing up and cheering us on every other Friday night is electric. Every home game seems to be sold out. No matter the game, homecoming, Avon week or even just a great game in general, the community shows us so much love. We raise over $50,000 in our fundraiser each year because the community and administration support the team so much. For me there is no better place to play than Roark Stadium, there are no better fans, they have won many Spirit Awards. If you go to eat at local breakfasts in town as a player, they’ll congratulate you on a hard-earned victory the night before. For anyone who hasn’t attended a Friday Night Football game at Roark Stadium, they won’t forget it. Each graduated player comes back for a few games a year and encourages us just as these players did before them. I can’t wait to take my last lap in the best community.

Danny O'Neil
Cathedral junior quarterback Danny O'Neil pictured Tuesday, August 2, 2022 at Cathedral High School in Indianapolis.
Grace Hollars/Indy Star

School: cathedral

Position: Strategist

Year: Junior

Middle School: Undecided

What does playing for Cathedral mean to you? “For me, playing for Cathedral is like a brotherhood. You won’t find a better culture than that of the dressing room at Cathedral. The long history and greatness of all the teams that have come before us puts a target on our backs. That means get everyone’s best game. When teams see they have Cathedral on their schedule, they circle us because of who we are and what we’ve accomplished. I wouldn’t have it any other way. We play for the best coaches and the best school in the state. Running around on the field in those golden helmets is a special feeling. However, our coaches prepare us to shine when game time arrives and the lights are on. No one is no better prepared and more inspired to be great than our football team. We expect nothing less than what we have achieved in the past two years. With all the accolades that Cathedral has achieved es, winning a 6A state title is something that has never been done before. So that’s my expectation and my goal for the season.

Luke Burgess
New Palestine senior offensive lineman Luke Burgess (76) pictured Thursday, June 30, 2022 at New Palestine Hardware.
Grace Hollars/Indy Star

School: New Palestine

Position: offensive line

Year: Senior

Middle School: Louisville

What does playing for New Palestine mean to you? “Playing for New Pal means everything to me. From head coach to players. I don’t think there is a better program to uplift me as a football player and as a young man. Being able to “Being the brilliant team and aspect of the community is a great feeling like no other. Having the stands full every Friday night is always a sight to behold. I wouldn’t want any other coaches, or community, for whom to play.

Trevor Lauck
Roncalli primary offensive lineman Trevor Lauck pictured Tuesday, August 2, 2022 at Roncalli High School in Indianapolis.
Grace Hollars/Indy Star

School: roncali

Position: offensive line

Year: Senior

Middle School: Iowa

What does playing for Roncalli mean to you? “Playing football for Roncalli is really something special. When we go there every Friday, we know that we are playing for much more than ourselves. We are playing for the community and the thousands of men who have worn this uniform. I truly believe it’s an honor to wear this jersey every week. Fridays on campus are pretty electric. I think you can always feel a buzz at school that it’s game day, especially for home games. After the school day is over, we head to mass, then it’s time to concentrate. Then, when game time finally comes, there’s no better feeling than to run out of the woods with your best friends in front of a huge crowd full of friends and family. But once that’s over, there’s one more thing we know we still have to do. WIN.”

George Burhenn
Mt. Vernon senior tight end George Burhenn (81) pictured Wednesday July 6, 2022 at the Rockin 4W Ranch owned by Tony and Jodi Wills in Fortville.
Grace Hollars/Indy Star

School: Mount Vernon

Position: tight end

Year: Senior

Middle School: Purdue

What does playing for Mt. Vernon mean to you? “Playing for Mt. Vernon on Friday night is a very special thing because the whole week the game is excited and when it comes to game time it’s a cool feeling to realize that everyone is watching you, you and your team, and you were the little kids in the booth cheering for the team and now you’re the team I grew up watching Mt. Vernon football all my life and watching my brother play for a while time, that definitely makes playing for Mt. Vernon special.

Joshua Mickens
Lawrence Central defensive lineman Josh Mickens pictured Friday, July 20, 2022 at Fort Harrison State Park in Indianapolis.
Grace Hollars/Indy Star

School: Lawrence Central

Position: defensive end

Year: Senior

Middle School: USL

What does playing for Lawrence Central mean to you? “LC has become more than the place where I play football and where I go to school, it has become my home. So because of that, playing there is even more special and because of the love they showed me. It makes me want to put my best foot forward every time I step on this pitch. Friday nights are very special to me, but this year will be even more so because I I have a few more reasons to go harder than last year, so now I’m just ready to make it happen.

Aycen Stevens
Decatur Central linebacker Aycen Stevens pictured Thursday, August 4, 2022 at Decatur Central High School in Indianapolis.
Grace Hollars/Indy Star

School: Central Decatur

Position: Linebacker/quarterback

Year: Senior

Middle School: Virginia Tech

What does playing for Decatur Central mean to you? “Man…. What does it mean to me to play under those lights in a Decatur Central jersey? It means the world to me, and I’m sure when the time comes, it will be hard for me to let it go. the feeling you get when you step out of that tunnel with your best friends you grew up with is something you can’t put into words. From being the little kid with long blonde hair running down the sidelines, d ‘Being the ballboy on Friday nights, to now enter my senior year, it’s been quite a journey but I wouldn’t trade my story for anything. This community has always been great for my family, and I have only respect for Decatur Central Growing up with the last name Stevens, I guess people probably expected me to play football, but I tried to write my own story with my older brother Tommy. has represented quite well, and I want to continue to lean er on that.”

Winston Berglund
Carmel senior defensive back Winston Berglund (5) pictured Tuesday, June 28, 2022, in downtown Carmel.
Grace Hollars/Indy Star

School: carmel

Position: Security

Year: Senior

Middle School: Purdue

What does playing for Carmel mean to you? “It’s definitely a privilege to play football for Carmel and her coach (John) Hébert. Everyone involved in the team holds each other accountable and supports each other – the culture is second to none. During my four years, I learned the art of discipline and humility. Playing for Carmel also taught me how to treat others and give back to his community. I love playing for coach Hébert. Playing on Friday night is so much fun, you just have to go out and compete against your butt and with your best friends. It’s also a time when the whole town can come together and support each other. There is nothing else like it. Go dogs.

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