The defense did anything but rest in fifth-ranked Center Grove’s 24-7 victory at North Central on Friday.
One week removed from a humbling home loss to No. 1 Ben Davis, the Trojans responded by holding the Panthers to 12 yards rushing on 30 carries. Fourteen of those rushing attempts produced either zero or negative yardage.
“Honestly, our coaching was amazing this week. We all showed a lot of pride this game,” said senior defensive end Cole Williams, one of many Center Grove defenders who spent a great deal of time in the North Central backfield.
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“We had a tough loss last week, and we needed to show that we are the team that can play the best defense. We’re trying to be the best defense in the MIC and in the state.”
The Trojans, now 3-2 overall and 2-2 in the Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference standings, looked the part on this night, though the offense supplied its share of solid performances, as well.
Freshman Carson Steele carried the football 22 times for 89 yards and two first-half touchdowns as the visitors settled into a 21-7 advantage at intermission.
Junior quarterback Jackson Moore completed 8 of 11 passes for 94 yards and a score.
Head coach Eric Moore is now 16-3 against the Panthers having last lost to North Central in 2011. He was pleased with the way his program won a tough road game against an improving program.
“We made a couple mistakes, but we tackled and got guys on the ground,” he said. “Last week wasn’t indicative of the way our team plays defense. We just got star struck a little bit and momentum got us.
“But tonight I saw that Trojan emotion come back. Our offensive line in the first half had that Trojan emotion, and a lot of pride and passion, so I was proud of that.”
Two Steele touchdown runs sandwiched around a spectacular scoring catch by junior split end Jacob Keith gave Center Grove its two-TD halftime lead.
The Trojans marched 73 yards on the game’s opening series to lead 7-0 on Steele’s 1-yard run with 6:41 remaining in the first quarter. North Central came right back to tie the game on a 1-yard run of its own courtesy of senior tailback George Stokes.
Center Grove responded on the ensuing series, Keith using his right hand to snag a 19-yard scoring pass from quarterback Jackson Williams in the front left corner of the end zone.
Three plays later, the Trojans’ defense did its part when Williams stripped the football from a Panthers’ ball carrier. A.J. Gin pounced on the pigskin to set the table for Steele’s 10-yard touchdown run around the right side a play later.
Center Grove’s defense isn’t no-name as much as it is new-name. Williams knew that even with all of the players it graduated from a year ago that it could still be an effective unit.
“It’s the best man up. Everybody does their job, and if one person is hurt we come in and do the job,” Williams said.
Center Grove plays its second consecutive conference road game next week at 6A No. 2 Lawrence Central, while the Panthers travel to Carmel.