Two-game losing streaks aren’t common occurrences in the Center Grove football program.
Needing a win in the worst way, the Trojans leaned on their defense to get back on track with a 16-0 victory against visiting Lawrence North on Friday.
“It was a big win for us. We played as one, and it was a good team win,” said safety Keegan Gephart, one of the players recognized before the game on what was Senior Night. “We came out and played the second half like we played the first.”
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The win evened Center Grove’s record at 4-4. The Trojans finish with a 3-4 mark in the Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference standings.
Center Grove sandwiched touchdown runs by freshman Carson Steele and junior Gavin Matheson around Luke Eckert’s 47-yard field goal for the evening’s points.
The game was stopped for approximately 20 minutes early in the fourth quarter after Lawrence North quarterback Derin McCulley sustained a broken leg after being hit throwing an incomplete pass on third-and-9.
Athletic trainers of both teams quickly tended to McCulley. He was eventually taken off the field on a stretcher and taken by ambulance to Saint Vincent’s Hospital on the Northside of Indianapolis.
“I tell these kids every day you’re so lucky to be alive, to be healthy, be at Center Grove and play football here because you never know when it’s going to be taken from you,” Trojans coach Eric Moore said.
Steele rushed for 89 yards on 21 carries. Junior quarterback Jackson Moore was 8 of 13 through the air for 76 yards.
Steele was tackled for loss on five of his nine first-half carries, but got loose for one long run which gave the Trojans a 7-0 halftime lead.
On the first play of the second quarter, the freshman tested the left side on first down, found a running lane to his liking and was gone for a 53-yard touchdown.
Center Grove managed a total of only 70 first-half yards compared to Lawrence North’s 116.
The Wildcats could’ve scored first, but a 19-yard field goal attempt with 2:13 remaining in the first period sailed left. Aided by two pass interference calls on the Trojans, Lawrence North marched as deep as the Center Grove 25 late in the second.
It’s here the Center Grove defense stiffened to make consecutive tackles of 7 and 8 yards to preserve the lead.
By no means the prettiest game coach Moore has been part of, he’s not going to wave off a victory.
“You get used to winning, and then you take it for granted. Now these guys will never take it for granted again,” Moore said. “When you’re hurting and you win, you feel better. There’s just nothing better than a win.
“Our defense was so sound tonight. It bent a little bit, but it didn’t give up the big one.”
Things don’t get easier for Center Grove next week as it travels to Tech High School in Indianapolis to battle Class 5A No. 2 Cathedral. Lawrence North (2-6, 0-6) closes its regular season at home against Pike.