The Center Grove football program is on its way to a semistate for a fifth time in as many seasons.
For only the second time, the Trojans will host.
Center Grove improved to 12-0 on the season with Friday night’s 24-13 victory at Warren Central in a Class 6A regional, setting up next week’s semistate against Avon.
“We had great focus all week and preparation. You know, we’ve overcome some battles this year, and with some great wins we’ve had some small losses. We’ve just continued to overcome,” said Trojans coach Eric Moore, who finally experienced a postseason win here after losing semistates to the Warriors in 2009 and 2013.
“This (place) is like a freaking morgue for me. Finally … FINALLY I win a game that counts here.
“Nah, they all count here. Warren Central is a great program, and I’m sure they’ll be back next year, and we can start all over with them.”
Junior Titus McCoy led the Trojans’ offense with 132 yards rushing yards and all three of his team’s touchdowns, the first two helping Center Grove bolt to a 17-0 halftime lead.
Senior tackles Jovan Swann and Cameron Tidd ignited a fired-up defense that only allowed the potent Warriors offense into the end zone twice.
Warren Central did win the total yardage battle, 297-291, but many of those yards came late on pass plays in an effort to get back into the game. Warren Central finished the season with an 8-4 record.
Tidd’s block of a 35-yard field goal attempt by Warriors senior kicker Schuyler Nehrig proved the ideal conclusion to a dominant first half by the Trojans.
Center Grove rolled to 196 total yards at break, 163 coming on the ground, with Hohlt at 64 yards rushing and McCoy another 57.
McCoy accounted for the touchdowns that got his team on the board — a 1-yard plunge at 6:39 of the first period and a nifty 22-yarder up the middle at 9:09 of the second quarter in which the junior broke no less than four tackles on his way to the end zone.
Nathanael Snyder’s 29-yard field goal with 2:03 remaining in the second made it a 17-0 spread, which was the count with two quarters left to play.
Warren Central was limited to 102 yards of total offense, 60 coming on the final drive of the second stanza as the Warriors drove from their own 18 to the Center Grove 18 until Tidd got a mitt on Nehrig’s field-goal try.
“We threw away the statement that said, ‘Next man up’ and went to ‘Best man up’. We just believe in ourselves, they love each other and they play hard,” Moore said. “The kids get to go on and being one of those final four (6A) teams is really cool.”
Senior back Jackson Hohlt provided 65 yards on 15 carries for Center Grove. Junior Triston Clark added 28 on seven attempts.
Center Grove quarterback Joey Siderewicz, who completed all eight pass attempts in the 42-38 win at Warren Central in Week 1, this time finished 2 of 5 for 33 yards. Siderewicz also rushed for 13 yards.
Avon (10-2) next week comes to Johnson County looking for its first-ever semistate championship. The Orioles advanced to within one win of the state finals in 1991, 1995, 1997 and 2005 but came up short every time.
Center Grove hasn’t played Avon since losing the sectional-opener to the Orioles in 2004.