Sam Pratt hasn’t washed his football game pants since August.
Whether that has anything to do with Center Grove’s 13-0 record, well, don’t bother debating that with Pratt.
He believes if he washes his pants, Center Grove will lose.
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The senior defensive tackle forgot to wash his pants the first three weeks of the season. After a 3-0 start to the season, Pratt decided against washing his pants until the Trojans lost.
And his practice pants? Those are just as dirty.
While he might be the only one on the team who finds comfort in dirty pants, he isn’t alone in believing that a weekly ritual has everything to do with the Trojans’ success.
Pratt is one of several players who decided to dedicate themselves to a pregame ritual, all for the hope of bringing home a 6A state championship.
“I forgot to take my pants home to wash them after the first game of the season, which we won. The same thing happened after the second game. So I thought, if we lose the next week I’ll take them home and wash them. But we won, at Carmel in a big game, and I thought it must be the lucky pants,” Pratt said. “We just kept on winning after that, so I never washed them.”
During summer workouts, everyone came to the conclusion that no player should cut his hair until the team lost. Seniors decided the team should wear dress shirts and ties to school on the day of away games. Every Thursday morning, the defensive players meet for doughnuts, milk and film. And on game days during the playoffs, players go to Chick-fil-A for a team meal right after school.
If the team stopped a superstitious ritual, that would be cause for panic, senior defensive tackle Jon Duncan said.
“We agreed to no haircuts during summer workouts, and I decided to wear a headband under my helmet,” Duncan said. “If I didn’t wear a headband during the game, I feel like we would lose.”
During the playoffs, white socks also have been a superstitious ritual implemented by the team.
Throughout the season on game days, instead of going home after school, players would go to the film room and rest or take a nap. The idea is to stay together as a team and spend as much time together as possible, senior wide receiver Quinton Stirsman said.
Some of the superstitions are more than recently decided rituals. Every season, senior week is a time for reflection, and school tradition calls for seniors to wear their bantam league football jerseys to school during one of the spirit days. Every senior on the Center Grove football team pulls out his youth-sized bantam league jersey and wears it to school despite the tight fit. Senior safety Connor Steeb has kept his bantam league jersey in his locker during the season.
And in the locker room, giant chain links are connected together, hanging from the wall. The links represent the steps it takes to be successful and the pieces that play a role. As each player leaves the locker room, whether it’s for practice, a game or when they’re going home, they grab the links and hit them against the board, Stirsman said.
No one player walks out of the locker room without hitting the links. When several players are leaving at once, they’ll stop, stand and wait until they can grab the links before leaving. The links are the last thing players touch before taking the field, making it one of the more important rituals of the program.
“It’s just a habit. You get so used to doing it. You feel like if you win doing something you can’t not do it,” senior wide receiver Zak Smith said.