DeKalb unify

DeKalb’s Unified flag football team will play for the state title against Franklin Central at Westfield Saturday. The Barons took the regional title with a thrilling last-minute victory against Tippecanoe Valley.

WATERLOO — “That was cutting it a little too close. I was thinking ‘What are we doing?’”

Carol Fike, along with her husband and co-coach Ryan Baker, experienced some anxiety seeing their DeKalb Unified flag football team fall behind by two points with only a minute left in Saturday’s regional final at Wawasee.

Not to worry. The Barons came through with a touchdown with just 15 seconds left to defeat Tippecanoe Valley 46-42 and earn a spot in this Saturday’s state championship game.

“It was super exciting. Everybody just stormed the field. Everybody was running and screaming,” Fike said.

“How close the game was made it more enjoyable when the final buzzer went off,” Baker added. “The McCutcheon (regional semifinal) game, we were excited to beat the defending state champs, but we won by 27 points (67-40). It was just ‘On to the next.’”

The regional champs were treated to a police and fire escort when they returned to Auburn and made a trip around the square downtown.

“People were there and yelling and the kids were yelling,” Fike said. “They were really excited. It was great.

“We hope the community continues to support us. We’re excited to get the opportunity to compete at state. We’re hoping people will make the trip or watch the game.”

The Barons (10-1) will face Franklin Central at noon at the Grand Park Sports Event Center in Westfield, where the Indianapolis Colts hold training camp.

Ticket sales will be digital only with GoFan Ticketing. Admission is $5, with children age 2 and younger admitted free.

The game will be streamed at at noon.

Longtime fans of Baron athletics know that it’s not the first time DeKalb and Franklin Central have clashed for a football championship. The Barons defeated the Flashes 28-7 for the Class 4A state title in 1986.

DeKalb has had unified sports for five years, and has taken part in flag football for three. The team lost in the first round of the sectional to Carroll in its first two years.

Flag football and track are the two unified sports sanctioned by the IHSAA. Three club sports — bocce in the fall, and bowling and basketball in the winter — are also available.

Fike likes the group DeKalb has for flag football.

“We have lots of good kids this year,” she said. “It’s been fun to watch them. They care greatly about each other. That’s huge. They’re helping each other out. They’re making sure everybody gets to score.

“They have really good sportsmanship. If somebody goes to the ground, they’re the first ones to run over and help them up.That says a lot about their character. I think that’s awesome.”

Special education students are helped by general education students who are partners. A team must have a ratio of three special educational players to two partners at all times. Partners may not pass the ball to each other.

“You know it’s not just going to be dominated by the general ed students,” Baker said. “You’re going to have points scored by both.”

The Barons have partners who participate or have participated in other sports, such as baseball, football and soccer.

“It’s nice to have the buy-in from other programs. It’s nice to have partners that have the athletic experience that we have this year,” Baker said.

All will have a special experience Saturday.

“The kids aren’t even sure of what to expect,” Fike said. “We have ideas of things that are going to happen, but it’s going to be fun to watch them experience all of that.

“These kids are having a lot of fun. They’ve worked hard and I’d love to see them finish it off with a huge win.”

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