For only the second time in Eric Moore’s 19 seasons as coach, Center Grove football enters sectional play with a losing record.
Moore isn’t the least bit concerned about a losing mindset.
“I am proud of our team for coming back. I saw some good signs tonight, running the football and playing good defense,” Moore said following his team’s 21-14 loss to Class 5A No. 1 Cathedral in a game played at Tech High School.
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“A loss is never a good way to go into the tournament. But that season’s over. This is the real deal. We had some kids who weren’t playing tonight. We’ve got to get healthy, and I think maybe in two week’s time we can get healthy and go from there”
Center Grove takes a 4-5 mark into the Oct. 27 first-round Class 6A sectional game at Franklin Central. It’s the first sub-.500 record the Trojans bring to the postseason since 2005.
Two interceptions by Trojans quarterback Jackson Moore and a pair of fumbles by freshman running back Carson Steele proved too much for Center Grove to overcome.
Steele’s second fumble was scooped up by Cathedral senior linebacker Hugh Davis and returned 96 yards for a score with 7 minutes remaining in the third stanza.
This gave the Irish a 21-0 lead; Steele left the game with what appeared to be an ankle injury.
Center Grove rallied with two Jackson Moore touchdown passes in the third quarter — 20 yards to Gavin Matheson and a 22-yarder to a wide-open Riley Roberts.
As much as the Trojans tried to put themselves in a position to either tie or win the game in the fourth, the Irish defense was up to the task. The team’s last gasp was a deep fourth-down pass from Moore that was intercepted by junior defensive back Bo Sanders.
Steele had 94 yards rushing before leaving the game. Jacob Keith finished as Center Grove’s leading receiver with three grabs for 59 yards.
Notre Dame-bound Cathedral running back Markese Stepp scored two touchdown runs to give the Irish a 14-0 halftime lead.
The senior’s first TD was set up when Center Grove junior punter P.J. Buck ran 19 yards on a fourth-and-23 from deep inside Trojans territory.
Cathedral took possession of the ball at the CG 38; three plays later, Stepp busted loose up the middle for a 7-0 advantage at 0:36 of the second period.
Center Grove marched as far as the Irish 16 on the ensuing possession, but Steele fumbled on second down. It was recovered by Cathedral senior linebacker George Kirch at the 17.
The Irish needed eight plays to take it to the end zone, the monster backbreaker being Roman Purcell’s 49-yard pass to fellow sophomore Jordan Thomas, who didn’t have a defender within 10 yards of him.
A low snap on the play forced Purcell to scramble to pick up the football before launching it downfield. Stepp’s 3-yard blast was on third-and-goal with 2:26 showing before the half.
Cathedral returns to Tech on Oct. 27 to host rival Roncalli in a first-round game in Class 5A Sectional 13.