As his players celebrated their latest triumph, Center Grove football coach Eric Moore struggled to maintain some measure of composure.
Early last week, Moore’s younger brother passed away at the age of 40.
Understandably, the coach was experiencing a multitude of emotions following Friday night’s 44-26 victory at Lawrence Central.
Watching the Class 6A No. 1 Trojans rally from a two-touchdown deficit early to improve to 6-0 and 5-0 in the Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference standings made for an entertaining game.
But it is just a game.
“Like I tried to tell the kids this week, every time you have a great gain you have a great loss. All through life, and you can think of football as the same way,” said Moore, his eyes watered by emotion.
“That’s just the way life is. You’ve got to go on.”
A fired-up Bears squad looked like the superior product during most of the opening half, jumping to a 12-0 lead until a Center Grove touchdown in the waning seconds of the second quarter opened the floodgates to a 38-point Trojans scoring run.
The first of Titus McCoy’s three long touchdown runs — this one a 55-sprint to the end zone with 8.1 seconds showing — proved massive in terms of swinging momentum.
“We really weren’t getting anything going offensively. It was just about getting a big play, and Titus broke off that long run and that helped us going into halftime and the second half,” said Trojans quarterback Joey Siderewicz.
“It was huge. It got our crowd going and got us going. It gave us confidence that we can bust some long runs and come back and win this game.”
Center Grove did both on its way to a season-high 577 rushing yards. McCoy proved the primary beneficiary of the work his linemen were doing, rushing for a career-best 301 yards on only 22 carries.
“The offensive line played outstanding,” said McCoy, who now needs just 98 yards rushing to reach 1,000 for the season. “It just dominated the line of scrimmage.”
Junior Trevor Hohlt contributed 13 carries for 101 yards; seniors Lee Clinker and Jackson Hohlt tacked on 84 and 81 rushing yards, respectively.
Defensively, the interior of the Trojans’ line made the going difficult for Lawrence Central senior tailback Gerrid Doaks, who the previous week lit up Pike with 362 yards on only 21 carries.
This time Doaks, a University of Cincinnati verbal commitment, produced a season-low 68 yards with his 21 attempts.
The impact of McCoy’s TD was felt almost instantly once halftime had concluded.
Center Grove took the second-half kickoff and promptly marched 80 yards in four plays. Again it was McCoy — this time a 65-yard touchdown run at 10:31 in the third period to give his team the lead for good.
Senior Nathanael Snyder nailed a 48-yard field goal to push the lead to 17-12 for Center Grove. Then came Jackson Hohlt’s 19-yard TD run followed by his 39-yarder to paydirt for a 31-12 lead.
Clinker added the icing, turning his first carry of the evening into a 77-yard touchdown.
Lawrence North made the final count more respectable with long touchdown runs late against the Trojans’ second- and third-team defenses.
“We didn’t even look like the same football team in the first half. Things didn’t go our way a couple of times and we didn’t handle adversity very well. I didn’t do a very good job of coaching this week and it showed in the first half,” Moore said.
“In the second half we made a couple of adjustments and they came out and did a great job.”
Center Grove players dedicated the win to Moore.
“It was tough for him all week. I knew he wasn’t himself. He was excited just to get on the bus and get to the game,” Siderewicz said.
The Trojans return home next Friday to host Pike (2-4, 1-3) in what will be Homecoming at Center Grove Stadium.