Don’t anticipate the weight of high expectations to negatively affect Center Grove’s football program this summer.
Not with Clay Hadley and Nick Davis still around to do the heavy lifting.
Both battle-tested seniors, Hadley and Davis are two of five starting offensive linemen returning from last season’s undefeated Class 6A state championship team.
Hadley at 6-foot-1, 265 pounds will be a three-year starter at left tackle; the 5-10, 260-pound Davis begins his third consecutive season as the starting left guard.
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It’s a duo that played a major role in Center Grove’s offense rushing for 4,318 yards — including two thousand-yarders in Titus McCoy and Jackson Hohlt — and amassing 5,310 yards and 60 touchdowns overall last season.
Not surprisingly, Hadley and Davis are best friends.
“We’ve known each other since fifth grade. We were pretty good friends then, but over time we’ve become best friends,” Hadley said. “Besides football, we work with tree rangers all day together. Someone else cuts the tree and we lift the logs.
“We do that six or seven hours a day. After a long day’s work you just want to sleep.”
Their summer schedules virtually mirror one another — weight-lifting sessions and speed/agility work at the high school in the early morning followed by a job that’s a workout in its own right.
At practice and at work, each is the other’s greatest ally.
“Nick works harder than anyone I know,” said Hadley, who’s been offered a scholarship to play at the University of St. Francis (NAIA) and is being looked at by the University of Indianapolis, a Division-II program.
“He’s always been faster than me, so I always try to use him to propel myself to work harder.”
Davis, who marvels at Hadley’s explosiveness off the line of scrimmage — “His first step is the fastest on the team,” Davis said — embraces the leadership responsibilities that come along with being a senior in coach Eric Moore’s program.
“I like it because it makes you be the hardest worker. There’s a lot of pride that comes with it because you always have to be a good role model to your brothers,” Davis said. “Always make sure you’re doing the right thing.”
With Hadley nearby, Davis has little choice — and vice versa.
“It’s nice because we’re always keeping each other in check. If he sees me not working hard he’s going to give me the business, and if I see him not working hard I’m going to let him know,” Davis said.
Running backs Titus McCoy, Trevor Hohlt, Russ Yeast and others are the ones who will be putting up numbers this season.
Regardless of who carries the football, running to the left seems a pretty wise option. Then again, with Bailey Smith back at center, Ethan Hart returning to play right guard and junior Cory Heinrichs at tight end, there is no such thing as a bad direction.
“I would say my strength is run blocking. My weakness is pass blocking, primarily, because we don’t pass that much. But I can still always get better at it,” Hadley said. “I’m looking forward to just dominating the game as an O-line.
“Last year we did that, and I’m looking to do it even more this year.”
McCoy, a senior who exceeded 100 yards rushing on 10 separate occasions last season on his way to a jaw-dropping 1,912 yards, expects nothing less.
“It’s incredible,” McCoy said of the Hadley-Davis combination. “Every play I can count on them getting the job done. They give 100 percent every play.
“No matter how big the linemen are they’re going against, I know they’ll win the battle. It’s just the type of player they are. They don’t accept losing.”
THE HADLEY FILE
Name: Clay Hadley
Family: Parents, Rod and Amy; sister, Nora, 12
Favorite TV show: “Workaholics”
Favorite food: Steak
Favorite movie: “Step Brothers”
Favorite athlete: Joey Bosa
Favorite team: Ohio State University football
THE DAVIS FILE
Name: Nick Davis
Family: Parents, James and Michelle; sister, Stephanie, 19
Favorite TV show: “Workaholics”
Favorite food: Pizza
Favorite movie: “Wolf of Wall Street”
Favorite athlete: Bo Jackson
Favorite team: Indianapolis Colts