Bailey Bennett experienced what could best be described as a full 48 minutes on Friday.
Bennett, the heart and soul of Center Grove’s defense, added a deflected pass, interception and go-ahead touchdown to his numerous tackles in the Trojans’ 20-7 victory against Class 6A No. 2 Ben Davis.
The win makes coach Eric Moore’s fifth-ranked squad 3-1 overall and 2-1 in the Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference standings.
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In the case of Bennett, a 6-foot, 210-pound linebacker, it was just another evening at the office.
“I would say the coaches put me in the right spots, and I just did my job,” Bennett said. “I love our defense. We’ve got such good chemistry out there. I love the way we play together.
“Our goal is to still get back to state, so we’re just going to keep grinding until we get there.”
Not to be outdone, Trojans senior Russ Yeast carried the football 24 times for 195 yards. His reverse-direction 80-yard touchdown run with 2:06 remaining in the third period gave Center Grove a two-TD advantage it wouldn’t relinquish.
Seniors Triston Clark and Trevor Hohlt rushed for 58 and 47 yards, respectively. As a team the Trojans followed the blocks of its formidable offensive line for a 305 yards on the ground.
Defensively, Moore knows when the stadium lights are on, Bennett has a knack for shining.
“You know, he’s just a player,” Moore said. “He’s a gamer. I hate that word, but he’s actually a gamer. He can just play the game of football.”
All but two of Center Grove’s 38 offensive plays in the first half were runs, including 16 by Yeast who piled up 109 rushing yards before intermission.
Overall, the Trojans hit the Giants with 166 yards on the ground in the first half.
Three of these were by Bennett, who crashed in with 5:43 of the second quarter to give Center Grove a 13-7 advantage.
This capped an 11-play, 91-yard drive in which every play was a run. Yeast accounted for six of the carries, including a 30-yarder to the Ben Davis 30 in which a Giants’ defender grabbed enough of Yeast’s foot to shoestring tackle him.
Ben Davis caught a huge break on the ensuing kickoff.
The Giants return man fumbled, and the football appeared to be smothered by a Center Grove player. However, the officials couldn’t determine which team had possession and ordered a re-rick by sophomore Luke Eckert.
Center Grove opened the scoring on its first series of the game. Hohlt’s 5-yard touchdown burst at 5:29 of the first period capped the 51-yard series set up when Bennett picked off a deflected pass attempt from Giants signal-caller Reese Taylor.
Taylor’s 11-yard touchdown run with 1:42 left in the first gave the hosts a 7-6 lead. The junior accounted for 96 of the Giants’ 144 yards of offense in the first half — 53 rushing and 43 through the air.