A peculiar thing happened on the way to Warren Central’s lopsided victory Friday night.
Fourth-ranked Center Grove grew up, dusted itself off and nearly pulled off a miracle.
Story continues below gallery
Staring at a 27-0 deficit late in the second period, the Trojans rallied for 24 consecutive points. Much as they tried, they couldn’t tack on more in what amounted to a 27-24 loss.
After graduating 19 of 22 starters from last season’s Class 6A runner-up, Center Grove coach Eric Moore wasn’t sure what to expect playing the No. 3 Warriors on their home turf.
His squad showed him a little bit of everything — good and not-so-good.
“The worst start in the history of football and yet we fought back hard and did some things offensively in the second half that were great,” Moore said. “Our defense was so awesome tonight. The points aren’t indicative of the way these kids played. You can’t give a team like that all those plays, but (Warren Central) is a big-play team.
“Two good programs going after each other. I’m really proud of the character that was on the field tonight. Never a problem at Warren Central.”
Early on there was, particularly in the form of wideout David Bell, a 6-foot-2 junior who had six receptions in the first half for 127 yards and two touchdowns.
Warren Central’s other two first-half scores came out of the wildcat formation on a pair of 2-yard runs by junior tailback Romeir Elliott
The Trojans established a bit of momentum late in the second quarter that carried over into the second half.
Freshman fullback Carson Steele barreled in for a 2-yard touchdown run with 13 seconds left before halftime to finally get Center Grove on the scoreboard.
In the third quarter, junior Luke Eckert drilled a 42-yard field goal to pull the visitors closer. Steele’s 93-yard burst down to the Warriors’ 1 set up his plunge into the end zone two plays later.
With the Trojans’ defense repeatedly stuffing the potent Warren Central offense, Moore’s team got to within three on Jackson Moore’s 5-yard touchdown pass to a leaping Sam Hohlt in the back of the end zone.
Center Grove did get one final opportunity for the tying or go-ahead points, but four straight incomplete passes ended the rally.
“It’s a great building block. We had no idea what to expect tonight,” coach Moore said. “Our kids had fun tonight and I think grew up a lot. Now we’ve got to go play football.”
Center Grove must now regroup to play its home opener Friday night against county rival Whiteland. The Warriors play the first of their two out-of-state opponents when they host Louisville Trinity.