Eric Moore can’t catch a break.
Center Grove’s football coach found himself in a somewhat uncomfortable position in 2009 and 2010, as both seasons the Trojans played Columbus East in its Class 5A sectional. This would be the same Olympians program where Tyson Moore, the eldest of the coach’s five children, was a starting offensive lineman.
The past two Octobers haven’t proved any easier from a personal standpoint.
When the Class 5A No. 6 Trojans travel tonight to Franklin for a sectional semifinal, Moore has to match strategies against one of his closest friends and former assistant coach, Grizzly Cubs head coach Brian Harbin.
“It’s hard. Brian was one of the first assistants I hired here, and he worked his way up from freshman coach to defensive backs coach to defensive coordinator,” said Moore, who’s in his 14th season at Center Grove. “It doesn’t make it fun.”
Center Grove opened its 2011 postseason run to the semistate with a 35-14 defeat of Franklin. Tonight’s rematch is a sectional semifinal, the defending champion Trojans (9-1) a decided favorite.
At the same time, it’s impossible to overlook the Grizzly Cubs’ momentum after they rallied to defeat Bloomington North last week 22-19 in the postseason-opener.
Franklin (4-6) entered the sectional having lost six of its previous seven games.
“I expect Franklin will be very, very well-prepared for us and have great energy and enthusiasm,” Moore said. “It’s one of those games that can change their whole season.”
Franklin snapped a three-game losing streak by beating Bloomington North. Junior running back Ross Barr led the way with a season-high 196 rushing yards on 27 carries, numbers that increased his season totals to 1,137 yards and 13 touchdowns.
Senior quarterback Nick Berry has completed 42 of 91 pass attempts for 375 yards and two scores on the year for the Cubs.
Defensively, sophomore Jason Moran is second on the team in total tackles (behind junior Conner Tolley) with 43 and is Franklin’s leader in tackles for loss with 5.5.
By routing Martinsville 41-12 last week in its sectional-opener, Center Grove now owns a seven-game winning streak that includes victories against perennial powers Ben Davis and Warren Central. The Trojans enter tonight averaging 38.6 points, the sixth-highest among Class 5A programs.
Last year’s meeting was the first between the county rivals since 1998, back when the Trojans and Cubs played during Week 1 of the regular season.
Through 10 games, Center Grove’s wing-T offense has generated 3,164 rushing yards and 42 touchdowns. The Trojans’ defense has limited the opposition to 1,252 and 11, respectively. Junior quarterback Luke Calvert is 51 of 84 on pass attempts for 789 yards and seven touchdowns.
Topping Center Grove’s tackles list are junior defensive back Alex Aukerman (68), and senior cornerback Mario Swann and sophomore linebacker Keith Sears (57 apiece). Damien Stone, a senior defensive end, is the leader in quarterback sacks with 3.5.
Harbin took over the Franklin program before the 2009 season. He and Moore speak two or three times a week to catch up on football, each other’s family, etc. Tonight, though, will be about business, a night when for four quarters emotions are suppressed.
“You’re still going to do your job. You’re still going to coach. Obviously, coach Moore has been a major influence on me, and I have the utmost respect for his program and the school,” Harbin said. “It’s a great opportunity for Franklin, our families and the community.
“I think our kids have a lot to go out there and play for.”