A new dimension has been added to the Center Grove-Warren Central football rivalry.
The Class 6A sectional assignments effective this season and next make it possible — some would say likely — these tradition-rich programs are going to meet twice in the same season for only the fourth time in series’ 19-year history.
First things first.
Kicking off the 2015 high school football season tonight is a handful of showcase games from around the state, none bigger than Center Grove, ranked No. 5 in the preseason 6A poll, battling fourth-ranked Warren Central.
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“Our season isn’t over if we lose to them, but, obviously, it’s a great way to start the season if you beat them,” said Eric Moore, who owns a 5-14 record against Warren Central since becoming Center Grove’s coach in 1999, including Class 5A semistate losses in 2003, 2009 and 2013.
“It’s awfully, awfully difficult to open the season against a team that has so many threats on offense and defense and such great tradition,” Moore added.
The Trojans opened the 2013 season with a 21-10 victory, the program’s first win on Indianapolis’ eastside after losing the nine previous games at Warren Central.
Warriors coach Jayson West brings back only two starters on offense and one on defense from his 9-3 regional qualifier of a year ago.
Yet no matter how tonight’s game plays out, West understands the similarities between playing in August and possibly again in early November are few and far between.
The weather is colder and the stakes higher. Beyond that everything is subject to which team can remain least injury-riddled throughout a challenging regular-season schedule highlighted by seven Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference opponents.
“It’s three months away, and teams change so fast. Around Indianapolis you’re pretty much going to play your MIC schedule twice if you’re going to make it to a state championship. Two years ago we played Lawrence Central in the sectional, and it just kept going,” West said.
What followed were triumphs against North Central and Pike, a 12-7 decision against Center Grove at semistate and a 7-6 victory against Carmel in the Class 5A state championship game.
“Your goal is to get better every week and hopefully make a run at a state championship,” West said. “Right now playing (Center Grove) at regional is not something you really think about because you’re fortunate to be there.”
Inexperienced as Warren Central is at certain offensive and defensive positions, the arrival of former Pike head coach Derek Moyers as the Warriors’ offensive coordinator certainly qualifies as a plus.
Moore said this has made Warren Central that much more difficult to scout.
Moyers steered the Red Devils’ fortunes for eight seasons, producing a record of 64-30 with his 2007 Pike squad advancing to the Class 5A title game.
His first Warriors offense must face a Center Grove defense returning veteran players such as tackles Jovan Swann and Cameron Tidd, linebacker Jackson Sodrel and defensive back Connor Steeb.
The Trojans’ offense, anchored by junior linemen Clay Hadley and Nick Davis, also is experienced at quarterback with the return of senior Joey Siderewicz. Featured ball carriers include juniors Titus McCoy and Trevor Hohlt.
The past four Center Grove vs. Warren Central football games were decided by a total of 22 points. The Warriors won last season’s opener 12-9 in overtime.
LET’S PLAY TWO
Here are the seasons Center Grove and Warren Central played both in the regular season and postseason:
Warren Central 30, Center Grove 14
Warren Central 30, Center Grove 0*
Warren Central 28, Center Grove 14
Warren Central 28, Center Grove 10*
Center Grove 21, Warren Central 10
Warren Central 12, Center Grove 7*