Coach Eric Moore doesn’t mind life at the top. He really doesn’t.
Sure, being ranked No. 1 in the Class 6A football poll has its share of distractions, pressures and expectations. But as far as Moore is concerned, it beats the alternative.
“Many people ask, ‘Is it hard being rated No. 1?’ I say, ‘I like No. 1 more than being, like, 25th,” Moore said. “Being ranked No. 1 is a true honor.”
For the fourth straight week, the Trojans have the honor of being the top-ranked team in the state’s largest class. Number 1 in both The AP and Indiana Football Coaches Association polls, the Trojans (6-0) also are the only undefeated team in Class 6A — no small achievement in light of their conference.
Widely regarded as one of the toughest football conferences in the Midwest, if not the nation, the Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference has boasted 12 of the past 14 big-class state champions.
Center Grove is on pace to become the 13th. Not only that, the Trojans are positioned to become the first-ever Class 6A team to win an undefeated state title.
But first things first.
As thrilled as the Trojans would be to run the table all the way to Lucas Oil Stadium, that’s not necessarily the goal. Getting to Lucas Oil Stadium and winning the final game is the goal.
If they happen to be undefeated when they get there, so much the better.
“We understand that on any Friday night it could all end,” said Moore, who is in his 17th season at Center Grove. “If we don’t stay humble, love our coaches, love our teammates and love our school … we want so badly to represent Center Grove in a championship manner.
“It really makes me feel wonderful when I’m out and about and I see people young and old, and they tell me how proud they are that we are having great success on the field. I’m even more proud of how well my guys are in the classroom as students. We all know that our future is dependent on those grades.”
As for the team’s future, the Trojans control their own destiny — to a point.
In a perfect world, they’ll execute like champions the rest of the way and will make it through the postseason injury-free. But the MIC is not a perfect world. Anyone can beat anyone on a given night, and injuries are part of life.
Consequently, the Trojans are focusing on what they can control — which is how they play. To date, they’ve outplayed everyone, including defending state champion Ben Davis, previous No. 1 Carmel and traditional state powers Warren Central and Lawrence Central.
If they outperform visiting Pike (2-4) on Friday night, they will clinch a share of the MIC championship and will move one step closer to an undefeated regular season. Counting Pike, the Trojans have three games to play before the state tournament begins.
Center Grove is bidding to return to the state championship game for what would be their third time under Moore. The Trojans were Class 5A runners-up in 2000 and were Class 5A state champions in 2008.
“For now, we will just respectfully thank the rating board for our No. 1 ranking, but we only care about beating Pike,” Moore said. “Being undefeated in the MIC in some cases is the most difficult task in the state. Honestly, we just take it one week at a time. This is a marathon.
“Staying healthy and being lucky will always be better than just having talent,” he continued. “Most all high schools are one sprained ankle away from winning or losing each week.”
Aug. 21;at Warren Central;W 42-38
Aug. 28;Whiteland;W 37-0
Sept. 4;at Carmel;W 24-21
Sept. 11;Ben Davis;W 31-19
Sept. 18;*North Central;W 38-7
Sept. 25;at Lawrence Central;W 44-26
Oct. 9;Lawrence North
*At Lucas Oil Stadium
THE AP CLASS 6A POLL
Rank;Team (first place votes);Record
1;Center Grove (18);6-0