Every time he watched his alma mater play football this season, Art Arbuckle couldn’t help but wonder how past would have fared against present.
One undefeated Center Grove team playing another, a matchup featuring not one or two Arbuckles but three.
Forty years have altered Center Grove High School and the sport itself too much to predict whether coach Joe DiPietro’s 1975 squad in its prime could hold its own against the current Trojans team, which is 11-0 and ranked No. 1 in Class 6A.
Not that there aren’t opinions, including those of Arbuckle, a former two-way starter at defensive end/tight end whose son, Nick, is a junior starter at linebacker this season for Center Grove.
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Aaron Arbuckle, twin brother of Art and an outstanding lineman in his own right who would go on to play college football for Lee Corso at Indiana University, passed away Sept. 2, 2010.
“I do think we could have. We were good athletes with a core of 14 seniors, most of whom played both ways and on special teams. There were probably two or three juniors who played significant minutes, but that’s about it,” Art, 57, said of the team that finished 10-0 but didn’t qualify for the postseason.
“Coach DiPietro was a motivator who made us believe in ourselves.”
But 14 seniors? Three-way players?
In 1975, Center Grove had just begun the process of stretching its legs as a community, growing from a factor locally in athletics to its present standing as a state championship contender in many sports.
The high school enrollment of 1,200 students is approximately half its current total.
Before this season’s regular-season home finale against Cathedral on Oct. 16, the program honored 35 senior players.
The 1975 Trojans roster included 35 players altogether.
If nothing else, the 2015 Trojans have a decided advantage when it comes to two- and three-deeps.
Art and Nick noticed something else recently when sitting down to watch film of Center Grove’s 28-0 shutout of Greenwood in Week 4 of the 1974 season.
Because football offenses placed far greater emphasis on running the football in those days, an opponent’s linebackers hovered closer to the line of scrimmage prior to the ball being snapped.
“Football has just changed a lot,” said Nick Arbuckle, who has 33 tackles this season entering Friday’s regional game at Warren Central. “It was predominantly running the football and those teams didn’t have as many players as today.”
Being a smaller school, those Center Grove teams weren’t lining up against the likes of Warren Central, Carmel and Ben Davis — winners of a combined 23 state titles — three of the first four weeks of the season as the Trojans do today.
Forty years ago, Center Grove’s first four games were against Speedway, Plainfield, Franklin and Greenwood. The lone common foe for those Trojans and these Trojans was Whiteland.
The 1975 team outscored its competition by a total of 240-67, with eight of the opponents limited to seven points or fewer. This year’s group in one more game is at 390-125.
Both defenses posted two shutouts.
The Arbuckles aren’t the only Johnson County family connecting the 1975 perfect season to what’s taking place now. Gene Sodrel, second cousin of senior linebacker Jackson Sodrel, also was a member of DiPietro’s team.
As for Art, he professes to being nothing more than a proud dad watching No. 55 run around making tackles on Friday nights.
“Nick is a lot like me. He’s the same size (6-foot-2, 210 pounds) as I was, and he has the same strengths and weaknesses that I had,” he said. “This year’s defense has really come on lately; and if they go undefeated and win a state championship, that’s a big deal.”
Center Grove 6, Speedway 0
Center Grove 34, Plainfield 7
Center Grove 22, Franklin 12
Center Grove 8, Greenwood 6
Center Grove 14, Franklin Central 7
Center Grove 44, Whiteland 14
Center Grove 30, Mooresville 7
Center Grove 6, Danville 0
Center Grove 30, Avon 7
Center Grove 46, Brown County 7
Final record: 10-0
Mid-State Conference record: 7-0
Center Grove 42, Warren Central 38
Center Grove 37, Whiteland 0
Center Grove 24, Carmel 21
Center Grove 31, Ben Davis 19
Center Grove 38, North Central 7
Center Grove 44, Lawrence Central 26
Center Grove 59, Pike 14
Center Grove 17, Lawrence North 7
Center Grove 7, Cathedral 0
Center Grove 34, Columbus North 7
Center Grove 56, Jeffersonville 6
Current record: 11-0
Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference record: 7-0