December 2019 This month, Carmel Monthly is proud to feature the Carmel High School (CHS) football team and IHSAA Class 6A state champions on our last cover of 2019. For those who missed the riveting game at Lucas Oil Stadium on Nov. 30, the game had Greyhound fans on the edge of their seats through the fourth quarter when rival Center Grove Trojans made a fierce comeback, but after two big third-down conversions, Carmel recovered an onside kick, ran out the clock and claimed their hard fought 20-17 championship victory. We spoke with CHS Football coach John Hebert about what it took for the team and the entire program to prepare for this year\u2019s season and how that preparation and growth led Carmel to clinch its ninth state championship title. Preseason Preparation Hebert shared with us how the program begins building a team in the off-season, identifying the leaders as early as February\u2014long before the official season kicks off. \u201cWe include the players in most discussions and decisions that are made, and that\u2019s something that I really believe in doing,\u201d Hebert said. \u201cThe leadership positions within the program were earned and identified based on last season. We have meetings to prepare the leaders on what and how they\u2019re going to teach the rest of their teammates, and we talk about things like integrity, accountability, respect and trust.\u201d Hebert said that talks of winning the championship were not a focus. Practicing and playing to everyone\u2019s full potential was the focus throughout the off- and regular seasons. \u201cWe focus on getting better at things that we know will help us in the long run,\u201d Hebert said. \u201cWe focus on the day-to-day routines and our processes to prepare us, and then when we take the field, we feel like we're really ready to go out and compete at our best.\u201d Growing Pains Hebert shared how the team converted a humbling loss (41-14) to Trinity High School\u2019s football team in Louisville, Kentucky, early in the season into a valuable learning lesson. \u201cWe lost that game down in Louisville after we had beaten them at home last year,\u201d Hebert recalled. \u201cThis year, we went down there, and they just blew us out. We turned the ball over four times, and they capitalized on it. We outscored them in the second half, but it is an example of a great opportunity for growth for the team. It gave us an opportunity to separate words from actions, and it gave us a real window into how much farther we had to go.\u201d Carmel went on a four-game winning streak after that game but had some tight games and missed opportunities in the first part of the season, according to Hebert. \u201c doesn\u2019t happen without going through some tough growth,\u201d Hebert said. \u201cThere were some games that I didn\u2019t feel like we started well and didn\u2019t come out offensively, but at the midpoint of the season\u2014after losing to North Central and Ben Davis , we had constant conversations in the locker room, encouraging players to have \u2018players only\u2019 meetings and discussions about trusting each other, making commitments to one another and trusting us coaches that we are doing the right things to help the team reach its full potential.\u201d Hebert said at that point, the success of the team fell on its leaders to help keep the team together and focused on its short-term and long-term goals. \u201cI think anytime there's success with that many people, those types of conversations have to happen all the time,\u201d Hebert emphasized. \u201cThey're not always convenient and comfortable, but they're very important. And I think the more that people buy into the meaning behind it all, the better chance you have of it all coming together.\u201d The team turned a corner, and once it made the playoffs and beat Warren Central High School (28-0) in week eight, Hebert said the team was sold on the vision of what it was going to take to be state champions, even though that was not specifically discussed at that point in the season. Developing a Championship Team The secret to Carmel\u2019s success is that the coaching staff doesn\u2019t just develop its starters. It develops the entire team. \u201cWe prepare two to three guys at a position and develop this team for the long term,\u201d Hebert said. \u201cIf you\u2019re going to win a championship, you can\u2019t just pick a group of guys\u2014the starters\u2014but you have to be committed to getting a lot of guys experience. While it\u2019s harder to establish an identity when you play a lot of people, it\u2019s really important to the process.\u201d It is important to note that Hebert mentioned throughout the interview the players who contributed to and made the big plays that led the team to victory that have been well documented in the litany of news articles and news segments after the game. Out of respect and admiration for the entire team, staff and crew, and so as not to omit anyone by accident or by virtue of limited real estate in this print article, Hebert asked if we could credit the team, staff, managers, assistants and parents\u2014as a whole\u2014for their contributions that led to the team\u2019s success this season. \u201cThere are just too many to name,\u201d Hebert said. \u201cThe guys that have the biggest impact on the team are usually the hardest workers. We picked our captains for Saturday night\u2019s game because they\u2019re hard workers, and nobody questions their allegiance to the program or their vision, and the team respects everything they have to say. I don\u2019t want to leave anybody out. There are so many great, great kids, and programs like this can\u2019t be boiled down to a few kids\u2014it takes all of them.\u201d A Return to the State Championship The tradition of excellence continued when Carmel not only made the stage but when it clinched its ninth State Championship title. Hebert shared his personal thoughts about that night. \u201cWe were so close to the goal,\u201d Hebert reflected. \u201cCenter Grove was mounting a furious comeback. At that point, the team was fighting to do what they\u2019d practiced and knew that they had to do the best that they could at that time. We brought in our \u2018hands\u2019 unit , who had practiced the day before and had done a walkthrough before the game where we talked about that very situation.\u201d Hebert continued, \u201cWe discussed a scenario where the whole game hinges on catching the ball, and if we don\u2019t, it lessens our chance of winning. And doing this while five guys are coming at you and while the whole team, the whole program and the whole city is watching, depending on you to catch the ball.\u201d The team\u2019s preparation and perseverance paid off. Carmel took a knee\u2014and the title\u2014with clock at 1:39. Champions, once again. \u201cIt was all that time in the making and learning hard lessons that led us here,\u201d Hebert said. \u201cIt was going back and looking at mistakes that cost us in previous games and practices and working to get to the point where everybody is on the same page and knows what the expectations . When you\u2019re able to get that point across and the players know it and believe it the same as the coaches\u2014then championships are possible."