Russ Yeast applied his own twist to the term “3-peat” Friday night.
The Center Grove senior wears No. 3 and repeatedly proved too fast and too elusive in the Trojans’ 43-0 victory at Whiteland.
With three touchdowns and 284 all-purpose yards collected in the first half alone, the defending Class 6A state champions peeled out to a 30-0 lead at intermission and never looked back.
The Trojans (1-1) have won all six of these Week 2 contests since the rivalry was renewed in 2011. They are back in action next week when they host Carmel in the annual Copper Kettle matchup.
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Yeast, utilized sparingly in the second half, finished with 144 yards rushing, one reception for 36 yards and three punt returns for a total of 114 yards.
In short, dominant.
“We needed to be focused tonight. The defense did a good job and the offense made some plays,” Center Grove coach Eric Moore said. “We’re just glad the storms didn’t get us.
“Last week was tough, losing like we did. Losing all the kids that we did. We said we were going to simplify things, give (Yeast) the football and try to get another week under our belt. We have a huge game with Carmel coming up.”
Center Grove would finish with 311 rushing yards through the efforts of nine different ball carriers.
Senior Triston Clark produced 71 yards and a score with his eight carries; Ethan Huntzinger also found the end zone on a 2-yard run and had 49 yards total.
Yeast set up the game’s first points with an electrifying 47-yard punt return. Two plays later he cashed in with a 9-yard run up the middle for a touchdown.
Center Grove extended its lead to 10-0 only 10 seconds into the second stanza on a 33-yard field goal by sophomore kicker Luke Eckert.
Then it was Yeast’s turn again, this time with a 55-yard punt return that took the football all the way to the Warriors’ 30. Clark scored three plays later, and just like that it was a 17-0 game.
Yeast’s 22- and 19-yard sprints around left end closed out the first-half scoring.
“I’m going to give all the credit to my line. They had holes open for me. I made a few cuts, but for the most part they were opening holes for me to run through,” Yeast said. “This win is real big. It puts the momentum back to us. All the focus goes to Carmel now, but this was a lot of momentum.”
Whiteland coach Darrin Fisher knew what Yeast could do in the open field.
Stopping him was a different matter altogether.
“I guess I didn’t coach well enough this week. We gave him some chances we really didn’t want to give him to return the ball in the open field,” Fisher said. “I guess we . . . I guess I did not make myself clear on the fact that we did not want to give him those open-field chances.
“And he took advantage of them. He’s a great athlete.”
Fisher’s team never established momentum on either side of the line of scrimmage. Some mental mistakes early cost the Warriors any chance at that.
“You can’t beat yourself. The turnover and the penalties that took us out of short-yardage situations . . . I think there were actually three of those,” Fisher said. “I guess you would say that’s poor coaching.
“Even though you go over it, if they’re not getting it, we need to find another way. I guess you would have to put that on me.”