Injuries? The Center Grove football team had no shortage of those.
At one position alone, nine different running backs played significant roles in a backfield that was banged up all season.
Perseverance? The Trojans had no shortage of that, either.
What else explains a fourth trip to the Class 5A semistate in the past five years?
But that wasn’t all.
Along the way, the sixth-ranked Trojans (12-2) won conference, sectional and regional championships and rode a 10-game winning streak into Friday’s semistate showdown against No. 1 Lawrence Central (14-0).
Although the ride ended at the semistate, Trojans coach Eric Moore found it difficult — it not impossible — to find fault with a team that accomplished so much, despite all of obstacles.
“We won 10 games in a row against a lot of good football teams, and this is a good
football team,” Moore said as
sobbing players embraced and pondered “what if?” after a 28-15 loss against the state finals-bound Bears.
Without question, the host Trojans expected to win. They always do. It’s why they entered the semistate on a roll.
But the fact they didn’t does not diminish what was yet another special season for the co-Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference Trojans, who were bidding for what would have been a third trip to the state finals.
Despite staying in striking distance until the final minutes, a poor first half, which resulted in a 21-3 halftime deficit, was simply too deep a hole to climb out of.
“They won the conference. They won 10 (straight) games. They won a sectional. They won a regional,” Moore said. “Did we run out of gas? I think we did a little bit, and then we sort of got refueled in the second half and gave it another effort.
“I’m not pleased with the performance, but I’m proud of the performance. You just hate it for our seniors that try so hard.”
Heading into the season, the Trojans adopted the theme “Unfinished Business,” which meant getting back to the semistate for a second-straight season and then taking the next step. Although they completed only half the objective, Moore has no complaints.
Getting back to the semistate was by itself, after all, no small accomplishment.
“They really thought they could get back to this point. They called it themselves, ‘unfinished business.’ They said they were going to get right back, and they did,” Moore said. “Do you realize how many different guys played on this football team this year? How many different starters?
“I had a weakside linebacker (sophomore Keith Sears) play fullback tonight, and he did a pretty good job. That’s a credit to our system.”
In the end, the bad start — and Lawrence Central’s multiple strengths — were too much to overcome.
But not for lack of trying.
“It was a strange night. We sort of self-destructed offensively in the first half, but most of it was because their defensive line did a great job. A credit goes to them,” Moore said. “The kids came out in the second half and did a great job. I thought we got (the Bears) into some plays that maybe didn’t work as well as they thought, and maybe we had a shot at it.
“We just couldn’t get any conversions, and we had some key penalties. You can’t do that on a team like this.”
Rick Morwick is sports editor of the Daily Journal. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.