Center Grove football players are familiar with the adage about trying to beat a good team twice in the same season.
Having won at Warren Central in the season-opener on Aug. 21, Class 6A’s top-ranked squad returns to Indianapolis’ eastside on Friday night with sights set on keeping its magical season alive.
Chillier conditions, higher stakes.
The team’s first meeting saw the Trojans rally from a 14-point deficit late in the third quarter to post a 42-38 victory for coach Eric Moore’s 12th season-opening “W” in 17 seasons.
Center Grove players anticipate another difficult test Friday.
“It is always tough to beat a good team twice, let alone Warren Central. We know they probably have a chip on their shoulder about Week 1 and will try to make adjustments to stop us,” said senior quarterback Joey Siderewicz, who completed all eight of his pass attempts for 152 yards and two touchdowns in the opener.
“This game means a lot more than the first time around,” Siderewicz said. “We will need to control the line offensively and run the football strong. It will be another hard-fought game that will come down to which team can control the ball more.”
Moore’s program is 0-2 in postseason games played at Warren Central, having lost semistate contests there in 2009 and 2013. The Warriors also blanked the Trojans, 30-0, in a Class 5A semistate back in 2003.
Like most Jayson West-coached teams, Warren Central has improved as the season has progressed.
The Warriors started 0-2, then won eight of its next nine games (the lone setback a 30-20 loss to Carmel), including last week’s convincing 54-17 dismantling of Southport to win Sectional 7.
Warren Central’s offense, led by junior quarterback Zach Summeier (2,087 yards passing, 13 touchdowns) and hard-nosed 5-foot-5 senior tailback Jaylen Coe (1,006 yards rushing), has exceeded 42 or more points seven times this season.
An open-field nightmare for defenders because of his quickness in the open field, Coe is also the team’s leading receiver this season with 47 receptions for 696 yards.
It’s a team that took its lumps early but bounced back strong to remain in contention for a ninth state championship.
“In the first Center Grove game we had only one starter back on defense and two on offense. Building an identity takes a while, but with our schedule we found out what we needed to work on real quickly,” West said. “Center Grove isn’t going to change much.
“They’ll be amazing and tough to stop, as usual.”
West served as an assistant coach on Moore’s staff for a season (1999). He left to coach in Florida at the conclusion of the 1999-2000 school year, eventually returned to central Indiana and now has two state championship rings after winning titles with Lawrence Central (2012) and Warren Central (2013).
In terms of preparation, Center Grove players won’t treat the Warriors any differently than anyone else on their schedule.
“When preparing for a team we’ve already beaten, we look at them as we do all our opponents. We see all our opponents as equal and do not overlook anyone,” senior right guard John Richardson said. “Coach Moore has told us countless times the only team that can beat you is you. We as a team know that is true.”
Senior kicker Nathanael Snyder, he of the seven field goals and 47 point-after kicks so far this season, agrees.
“It doesn’t matter if we are playing a team we are expected to beat or expected to lose to, we treat every opponent with absolute respect and prepare the same every week,” Snyder said.
“It’s hard to beat a MIC team twice, but that is what makes the conference so great. Warren Central is a great all-around team, but so are we.”
Scores of postseason games played between Center Grove and Warren Central:
2013 — Warren Central 12, Center Grove 7 (Class 6A semistate)
2009 — Warren Central 28, Center Grove 10 (Class 5A semistate)
2003 — Warren Central 30, Center Grove 0 (Class 5A semistate)