Survival of the fittest

It’s taken Center Grove’s football program four games to accomplish what it couldn’t in any of the previous 17 seasons.

For the first time since becoming a charter member of the Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference in 1998, the Trojans have defeated Ben Davis, Carmel and Warren Central in the same regular season.

Friday night’s 31-19 conquest of visiting Ben Davis in a game less suspenseful than the final score indicates completed the trifecta for Class 6A’s No. 1 team.

Making history also allows Center Grove (4-0) the top spot in the MIC standings at 3-0 as it prepares to battle winless North Central inside Lucas Oil Stadium on Friday.

Kickoff is 6 p.m.

“Four and 0 with our schedule . . . I mean, come on. We deserve to be ranked No. 1. Now we’ll get more comfortable with it, and we’ve got a run of games here. We’ve got to keep our focus and intensity and our eye on the prize,” said Trojans coach Eric Moore after notching career win No. 199.

“I thought the only way we could win tonight was to come out of the gate fast and use our crowd and all of our emotion.”

Mission accomplished.

The Trojans held a 14-0 advantage not even four minutes into the game after junior end Dan Root’s block of a Giants punt was covered in the end zone by senior Jovan Swann with 8:03 remaining in the first quarter.

This came shortly after junior back Titus McCoy located a crease along the left side for a 42-yard touchdown run for the game’s first points.

McCoy by game’s end had himself a career-high 29 carries for 149 yards and three scores. His TD runs covering 6 and 9 yards in the third stanza made it a 31-6 Trojans lead.

“We did a great job in the second half, the defense did, and we ran the ball. It’s a tough, ugly job to get the ball inside the way (McCoy) does and play smashmouth football, but he did it and I’m real proud of him,” Moore said.

Defending 6A state champion Ben Davis made the final count more respectable with a pair of touchdowns over the final 12 minutes.

The Trojans’ defense, led by Swann and senior tackle Cameron Tidd, was at its hard-hitting best, forcing a potent BD offense to punt the ball away in five of its first eight offensive series (the other three resulted in a Giants’ TD, a fumble and running out the clock late in the second period).

Friday’s victory can’t erase memories of last season’s 49-45 semistate loss at Ben Davis in which the Giants scored the game’s final 21 points, but it’s a start.

“I think we all definitely had it in the back of our minds, but we weren’t worried about that. We were worried about today’s game. (Last November) is in the past. It doesn’t matter anymore. We were focused on today and getting the job done,” Tidd said.

“We were just ready to go. Playing the defense we should be playing. Our strong point is our defense.”

Center Grove’s offense can certainly plead its case after running the football 46 times for 231 yards. Jackson and Trevor Hohlt complemented McCoy’s big night with 41 and 38 rushing yards, respectively.

Senior quarterback Joey Siderewicz completed 5 of 9 passes for 103 yards, his top target being senior Quinton Stirsman, who had two receptions for 35 yards.

Senior kicker Nathanael Snyder booted a 33-yard field goal late in the second period to go along with his four extra-point kicks.

Junior quarterback Cooper Azjai had a nice first half going, completing 10 of 14 pass attempts for 105 yards, until going out of the game with an injury midway through the second quarter.

He would not return. By night’s end the Giants had used three quarterbacks with senior Alphonso Howard and sophomore Reese Taylor gaining varsity minutes behind center.

Ben Davis’ three signal-callers combined for 37 pass attempts, most quick-hitters to the sideline. And though the Giants did manage 252 yards through the air, the running game produced only 39 yards on 30 carries.

Mike Beas is a sports writer for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at