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After coaching change, tough start, FW Luers eyes fourth straight state title

Bishop Luer's JaylSmith runs first down first quarter sectional actiFriday against Eastside Bishop Luers High School. Phoby Cathie Rowand

Bishop Luer's Jaylon Smith runs a first down in the first quarter of sectional action Friday against Eastside at Bishop Luers High School. Photo by Cathie Rowand

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Updated: December 19, 2012 1:01PM



FORT WAYNE — On face value, it was business as usual last Friday for Fort Wayne Bishop Luers. The Knights, winners of three straight 2A high school football state championships, punched their ticket to yet another semistate.

True, Tipton led 12-7 early in the fourth quarter. But Notre Dame-bound running back Jaylon Smith scored twice in the final quarter (giving him three touchdowns for the game and a potential fourth touchdown of 92 yards called back because of a penalty) to give Luers a 22-12 win, setting up a winner-goes-to-Indianapolis duel with Andrean tonight.

The man who made football business very good at Luers was Matt Lindsey. Of the 10 state titles Luers has won, Lindsey is responsible for nine, including the current three peat.

Then came Sept. 12.

That’s when a large number of inappropriate videos were found on Lindsey’s computer. Two days later, Lindsey was fired.

To the team’s credit, the Knights bounced back from their coach’s dismissal and a 2-2 start, thanks to Luers (9-4 with a five-game winning streak) reaching back into its past to find the man who could right the ship.

Steven Keefer had coached Luers before Lindsey and coached the Knights to their first state title in 1986. The coaching change was seamless, with Luers winning eight of its last nine on the way to a semistate trip to 5959 Broadway.

“Most of the staff either coached with me or played for me so it was a smooth transistion,” Keefer said. “When we took over, our message was we’re not going to look back, we’re going to look forward and the kids were on board with that.”

And boy, does he have some talented kids to work with.

Smith, a four-year starter, also plays outside linebacker and defensive end. His brother, running back Rod Smith, plays at Ohio State.

“He’s in a class of his own,” Keefer said. “He’s a terrific kid and has played well in the playoffs.”

Sharing the backfield with Smith is Tyvel Jemison, who has an offer from Purdue. Mike Rogers is a good enough wide receiver to go to Bowling Green when his high school career is over.

Of course, Andrean is a team that can tell you a thing or two about overcoming adversity, although bouncing back from a one-and-done playoff performance last year pales in comparison with what the 59ers’ opponent dealt with this season.

“We’ve watched four games of them on DVD and they are a formidable opponent,”Keefer said. “We’re looking for a real battle.”

The 59ers would be wise to not get too comfortable no matter how far ahead they may get. As Luers has shown both last Friday and really, since mid-September, the Knights are experts in the art of comebacks.



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