The player wearing No. 51 for the Center Grove football team Friday was senior defensive tackle Jovan Swann.
This is important to remember because for most of Friday night’s 37-0 defeat of Whiteland there appeared to be 51 Jovan Swanns.
Warriors’ ball carriers couldn’t get to their usual running lanes as the Trojans’ swarming defense literally stopped them in their tracks for 64 yards on 39 attempts — an average of 1.6 yards.
“I’ll tell you, we ran every blocking scheme that we possess. I thought No. 51 was as active and as effective a defensive player as we’ve ever played against,” Whiteland coach Darrin Fisher said after watching his program lose its fifth straight to Center Grove.
“The rest of their defense is good, too. There were a lot of plays early in the first half where we got cut down from the backside. There were some holes there. We just couldn’t get to them.”
Even Trojans coach Eric Moore, long accustomed to Swann’s explosiveness once the football is snapped, was impressed with how the senior dominated.
“Jovan Swann was a real factor tonight. He played hard and low and very physical. The whole defense tackled well and just really played up to its capability. That was an outstanding offense we shut down tonight,” Moore said.
“I think Whiteland is going to win a lot of games, and I wish them the best. The big thing is both teams got out of this, and no one is hurt and lost for the season.”
County pride has been at stake since the series was revived in 2011, but little else.
Center Grove as a Class 6A program has no chance of meeting the 5A Warriors in the postseason; furthermore, the programs play in different conferences, the Trojans in the Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference and Whiteland in the Mid-State Conference.
Both coaches will drive these points home this week with Center Grove traveling to Carmel for the 18th annual Copper Kettle showdown and the Warriors playing host to Decatur Central.
“This loss does not affect our long-term goals of a Mid-State Conference title and advancing through the tournament farther than we have before. The only way it affects those goals is if this game has a lasting effect on us,” Fisher said.
“You’ve got to flush this feeling and look at it from a teaching standpoint. Look at the film and realize that you’ve got to get better. What techniques and fundamentals do you have to work on in order to get better as a football team.”
Center Grove’s skill-position players produced 360 yards rushing and another 66 through the air against Whiteland. Making these yards possible was the offensive line dominance of Clay Hadley, Nick Davis, Bailey Smith, Chris Barnett, John Richardson and tight end Cory Heinrichs.
Junior back Titus McCoy led the Center Grove running game with 23 carries for 154 yards and a pair of second-quarter touchdowns for what were the game’s opening points.
In McCoy’s final carry, a 48-yarder down the left sideline with 1:27 remaining in the third, he appeared to pull a leg muscle before being tackled. After laying on the field for a few moments he walked to the Trojans’ sideline under his own power.
Senior Jackson Hohlt maximized his eight carries, gaining 125 yards and busting free for a 55-yard TD run of his own. Quarterback Joey Siderewicz was a perfect 6-for-6 passing, meaning he’s completed all 14 attempts this season.
McCoy’s two scores and a 53-yard field goal by senior Nathanael Snyder — three yards shy of tying the Center Grove record — lifted the Trojans to a 16-0 halftime lead.
Four of Whiteland’s five first-half offensive possessions resulted in punts after three plays. The Warriors mustered only 12 yards of total offense during the first two quarters.
Center Grove has outscored Whiteland by a total of 209-26 in the five recent meetings.