Center Grove’s seniors were starting kindergarten the only other time the Trojans won two consecutive Copper Kettle football games at Carmel Stadium.
The Trojans’ 24-21 win at Carmel on Friday represents the first time coach Eric Moore’s team has pulled off the feat since his 2001 and 2003 teams did.
Unlike the 2013 game at Carmel in which big plays ruled, the state’s No. 2 (and soon to be No. 1) squad in Class 6A three-, four- and five-yarded its way down field all night long against the Greyhounds’ defense.
“I think it’s just the nature of our team. We’re experienced. I don’t know if we have any guys to break it all the way every play, but I think we have guys who get solid yards,” Trojans senior quarterback Joey Siderewicz said.
“And we have the best offensive line in the state. They work hard every day, and we’re deep there, too. This is awesome. To beat Carmel … I don’t care what the stats were or anything. We just wanted to win.”
The defending Class 6A state runners-up won the total yardage battle, 338-242, but two Greyhounds turnovers in the first half led to 10 of Center Grove’s points.
“Thirty years of football games and this doesn’t get any easier. It doesn’t get any more fun than coming up here and … (Carmel) is a great program, a great school and tradition,” a perspiration-soaked Moore said afterward.
“I’m just so happy for our kids. We’re humbled to play at Carmel, but we deserved to win tonight. I’m so happy for our guys. The defense battled back in the second half and the offense ran hard tonight. We didn’t have those big plays, but we had enough.”
The Trojans’ wing-T offense proved workmanlike with 50 carries for 226 yards.
Senior Jackson Hohlt rushed for 112 yards on 13 tries, his second-half runs of 12, 33 and 18 among the offense’s four longest plays of the game. Junior fullback Titus McCoy added 62 yards and Center Grove’s winning points on a 1-yard plunge with 2:43 left in the third quarter.
Center Grove dominated at the outset, jumping to a 17-0 lead before two Greyhounds touchdowns in the final 2:02 of the second stanza made it a game again.
It took eight plays in the Trojans’ second offensive series for game’s first points to be scored, Jackson Hohlt following his blocking around left end for a 7-yard touchdown run at 3:07 of the first quarter.
The hosts drove all the way to the Center Grove 20 on the following possession only to squander the opportunity.
Cameron Tidd’s hard hit on Carmel back Tobias Watkins forced a fumble pounced on by Trojans linebacker Jackson Sodrel. This led to Nathanael Snyder’s 33-yard field goal and a 10-0 Center Grove advantage at 8:01 of the second.
Again the Trojans’ defense stepped it up, this time junior linebacker Bailey Bennett stepping in front of a pass over the middle by Viktrup at the 30 and returning it to the Greyhounds’ 9.
Three plays later Siderewicz eluded a Carmel pass rush to lob a 6-yard touchdown pass to McCoy in the back of the end zone.
Both Carmel touchdowns late in the second were set up by deep passes over the middle from Viktrup to junior speedster Jalen Walker — the second a 46-yarder in which a diving Walker extended his 5-foot-9 frame to its fullest.
Carmel took its first and only lead of the night with 5:05 remaining in the third on a 10-yard scramble and score by senior quarterback Michael Viktrup.
Trevor Hohlt’s 43-yard return on the ensuing kickoff gave the Trojans good field position to begin what was the deciding drive.
“I brought the offense together and got us calmed down. I knew we could get yards like we did at the start of the game,” Siderewicz said. “It was just getting that energy back and getting a couple good plays.”
Carmel (1-2, 0-1 in the MIC) had two more offensive series but stalled both times.
A sack on Viktrup by Trojans defensive tackle Jovan Swann stopped Carmel’s momentum in the first series; Cameron Tidd spun Viktrup to the turf for what was a hurried incompletion on fourth-and-6 with 2:10 remaining.
Center Grove ran out the clock, and the celebration was on.
Siderewicz, who was 14 of 14 through the air through the Trojans’ first two games, completed his first two Friday night to run the string to 16 straight. His overthrow of McCoy in the left flat at 3:27 of the first quarter ended the streak.
Center Grove is now 3-0 and 2-0 in the MIC standings, with defending 6A state champion Ben Davis traveling to the Trojans’ field Friday.