The final game of the 40th season at the Center Grove football stadium won’t be forgotten by those who were there.
Not soon. Not ever.
By defeating Avon 35-34 in double-overtime in a Class 6A semistate Friday night, the No. 1-ranked Trojans are finally able to turn their thoughts to Lucas Oil Stadium, home of the annual state finals, and opponent Penn.
Having come up short the past four years at semistate, Center Grove (13-0) broke through for the third time in coach Eric Moore’s 17 seasons.
The Trojans previously lost to Penn in the 5A title matchup in 2000; more recently, Moore’s program rallied for a thrilling victory against Carmel to win the Class 5A crown in 2008.
And now it’s back, chomping at the bit to face Penn the night of Nov. 28 with a chance to become Indiana’s first-ever undefeated 6A state champion.
A two-point conversion run by junior Titus McCoy along the left side was the difference as Trojans players and coaches spilled onto the field in celebration.
Avon had scored first in the second OT for a 34-27 advantage, but McCoy blew through a gaping hole on the ensuing first down.
Instead of going for the tie and a third overtime, Trojans offensive players talked Moore into going for two.
With everyone in the standing-room-only crowd on its feet, McCoy took a handoff from quarterback Joey Siderewicz, started left and charged into the end zone to keep Center Grove’s magical season alive in a most suspenseful fashion.
McCoy finished with 184 yards rushing to lead the Trojans, though there were heroes everywhere.
His efforts overshadowed sensational Avon senior quarterback Brandon Peters, who passed for 306 yards and two touchdowns.
The Orioles (10-3) were ahead 20-17 late in the fourth stanza, but a 34-yard field goal by Nathanael Snyder with 5.8 seconds left forced overtime.
Seven first-half penalties — including a pair of personal fouls — against Center Grove didn’t help the home team’s cause any as the score was tied, 10-10, at halftime.
Led by McCoy’s 57 yards rushing, Center Grove held the upper hand in total yardage, 135-115, over the first two quarters.
Avon struck first when on its second offensive possession it drove deep enough into Trojans’ territory for senior Tyler Shanahan booted a 22-yard field goal with 2:43 left in the first period.
Center Grove matched it with Nathanael Snyder’s 28-yarder from the left hash mark at 5:29 of the second quarter for a 3-3 tie.
On the ensuing series Orioles running back Bryant Fitzgerald coughed up the football, which was covered by Trojans junior linebacker Sam Bolin at the Avon 24.
Two plays later, Center Grove took a 10-3 lead as quarterback Joey Siderewicz found Jackson Hohlt all by his lonesome for a 28-yard TD pass.
Starting at its own 20, Avon marched 80 yards in 10 plays to again tie the score. Peters’ 28-yard dart to senior Andrew Griffin at 2:36 of the second quarter made it a whole new ballgame with two quarters to play.