Blake Moran’s pregame ritual early this evening is going to include printing the initials “JM” on the protective tape wrapped around his right wrist.
A short time later, members of the Center Grove football team will sprint out of the visitor’s tunnel and onto the playing surface at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Amid the high-fiving, hugging and head-butting taking place, Moran, a starting cornerback who has tallied 47.5 tackles and eight pass break-ups this season, will locate a solitary spot and aim his right index finger toward the sky.
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John Moran, this one’s for you.
A day carrying the potential to be one of the best of Blake’s young life can in no way be whole regardless how the undefeated and top-ranked Trojans fare in tonight’s Class 6A championship game against Penn.
Not without John, who was not only Blake’s father, but his best friend, coach and trusted sounding board for matters on and away from athletic competition.
John Moran died of a heart attack at home on Oct. 4, 2011.
He was 59.
“I stopped by his house and he was gone. Worst day of our lives,” remembered Blake’s mother, Lynn, who had remained close friends with John despite the couple being divorced when Blake was 3. “I didn’t know which of our kids to worry about the most.”
Blake was in the eighth-grade at Middle School North when his dad passed away, his universe completely rocked the moment he arrived home from school.
“We were pretty close. I feel like being the only boy helped that, but he was big into athletics and so was I. When I was a kid I played football, basketball and baseball, and that’s what he did when he was younger,” Moran said.
“I didn’t go to school for the next couple of days. It was pretty rough.”
John Moran took tremendous pride in his children’s many accomplishments and Center Grove athletics in general.
He helped coach both Blake and his older sister (by 17 years), Gabrielle, during their formative years no matter which sport they pursued. John Moran also served as a Trojans assistant football coach, and was in charge of the receivers during the magical 2008 state championship season.
Almost seven years to the day later, it’s his son, a 6-foot-3, 200-pound two-year starter, doing his part for a swarming defensive unit permitting an average of only 14.8 points a game.
Somewhere John Moran, who was in his third season as head coach of the Junior Trojans football team when he died and a man who impacted the lives of many, is watching.
“He would be loving all of this right now. He always thought we could do it my (senior) year, too,” Blake said of Center Grove’s first title appearance since the 2008 squad downed Carmel, 36-33, in the Class 5A final.
“I miss him being around. Just seeing him at all of the football games.”
Lynn said her son endured some difficult years following John’s death, but that Blake began regaining his confidence as a junior starter while helping lead Center Grove to semistate (the Trojans lost at eventual 6A champion Ben Davis).
This season has produced all victories. To the Morans, the past four weekends have been particularly challenging no matter how close or lopsided the final score.
“All of the games have been emotional, especially in the postseason. I just trust in my faith in God to feel John’s presence and am so grateful our kids recognize those signs,” Lynn said. “Blake keeps things pretty much inside, but I think he misses his dad’s critiquing him and just watching football with him.”
Moran doesn’t doubt for a minute his old man will be watching every move, tackle and blitz the kid in the white No. 7 jersey makes against the Penn offense.
“Yeah,” Blake said with a smile. “I think he will be.”
THE MORAN FILE
Name: Blake Moran
Family: Mom, Lynn; sister, Gabrielle, 35
Favorite TV show: “SportsCenter”
Favorite food: Pizza
Favorite movie: “Saving Private Ryan”
Favorite athlete: Tyrann Mathieu
Favorite team: Indianapolis Colts
When: Tonight, 7:05 p.m.
Where: Lucas Oil Stadium
What: Class 6A championship game
Who: No. 1 Center Grove (13-0) vs. No. 3 Penn (12-1)
Tickets: $15 per person (pre-school children admitted with no charge)
Tickets available: At Center Grove High School athletic office (Door 3) today from 9 a.m. to noon; tickets can also be purchased at the gate.
TV: Fox Sports Indiana
Tailgate party: Information for a special tailgate party, dubbed “Trojan Town,” for Center Grove fans can be found online at gatetenevents.com.
Note: Because of increased security, the Indiana High School Athletic Association is advising all fans to travel lightly and arrive early.