Center Grove doesn’t make a habit of playing Mt. Vernon during the regular season in boys soccer.
This doesn’t mean the Trojans haven’t made themselves at home at the Marauders’ facility.
Winners of five consecutive Mt. Vernon Regionals, the reigning Class 2A state champions aim to make it six straight when play begins there Thursday.
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How successful has Center Grove been in northern Hancock County?
Center Grove has won 10 straight regional matches there by a combined score of 44-3.
A year ago, a senior-dominated Trojans squad blanked Franklin Central in a semifinal 7-0 and scored a 4-1 decision over the host Marauders in the title match.
Seven of the 10 triumphs since 2011 have been shutouts.
Second-year head coach Jameson McLaughlin knows his program isn’t clearing shelf space for another regional trophy just yet.
“Our players can’t take anything for granted. Our match against Southport proved that,” said McLaughlin, referring to Center Grove’s 1-0 loss at home last month to the Cardinals.
“The players have to show up and dominate. Play their best game every time out.”
The Trojans faced only one of the regional qualifiers during the regular season, finishing in a 0-0 tie with Perry Meridian in the opener Aug. 18.
Since a 1-1 tie at Carmel, Center Grove has won four matches by a combined count of 15-0.
The lone blemish was a 3-2 loss at Columbus North.
MacLaughlin considers that setback and a 3-2 loss at Class 2A No. 4 North Central among the best matches the Trojans played this season.
“I think the season has gone very well,” McLaughlin said. “We knew there would be growing pains because of all the players we graduated, but it’s gone better than we thought.”
A lack of rest shouldn’t be a concern for Center Grove players as all students are off all of this week and next week for fall break.
“Once we get to tournament time we start focusing more,” senior midfielder Connor Campbell said. “And since regional week falls on fall break, we don’t have school to worry about.
“I know having a rest and being able to concentrate on just one thing helps me.”
Senior Jared Wilkerson has seven goals and three assists this season to lead the Trojans in points (17). Sophomore Jack Neal’s breakout season has been good for six goals and four assists, while another sophomore, Luke Boha, has four goals and five assists.
Ben Derose is tops in assists with seven. Junior goalkeeper Jacob Cooley is averaging 7.3 saves per contest to go along with 11 shutouts.
Mt. Vernon (Fortville) Regional
Center Grove (12-3-2) vs. Franklin Central (10-8), 5 p.m.
Perry Meridian (9-3-1) vs. Greenfield-Central (13-2-1), 7 p.m.
Championship, 7 p.m.