As recently as last summer, Center Grove’s offensive line was a point of concern for coach Eric Moore.
Four seniors from the 2011 semistate qualifier had departed. The lone returnee was junior center Alex Woods.
Who would be breaking the huddle and lining up with Woods was anybody’s guess, although Moore had ideas.
Therein lies the beauty of building a program some 100 varsity members strong on an annual basis. Athletes — aka choices — abound.
“We just needed help. Mitch McKee had been hurt since his sophomore year, and Samm Hayes had played and then hurt his shoulder,” said Moore, whose sixth-ranked team plays host to Columbus North tonight in a Class 5A sectional final. “What we had to do was take Nathan Krohne and Logan Battle, who were defensive players, and move them to offense.”
The final product turned out something special: the 6-foot-4, 275-pound Hayes at left tackle, Battle (6-2, 200), a junior, at left guard; Woods (6-3, 240) snapping the football; and seniors Krohne (6-3, 230) and McKee (6-3, 250) manning the right side. Another junior, 6-1, 260-pound Jacob Vance, has seen time at left guard.
Moore and his assistant coaches can study film and pinpoint whatever inadequacies there are. Player A is doing this well but needs to do this better. The same goes for players B, C, D and E.
At the same time it’s hard to stare cross-eyed at the results, a 10-1 record led by a wing-T offense averaging 40.7 points and 325 yards rushing per outing.
“I knew that if we worked hard in the offseason we could be as good as last year’s line, if not better. It wasn’t my choice to come over to offense, but it’s worked out well,” Krohne said. “We have so many good running backs that we know if we make the blocks we’ll for sure score touchdowns.”
This has been proved with sophomore backs Max Norris and juniors Lane Morris and Logan Hutson sidelined at various points of the season due to injury. Through it all, the Trojans haven’t missed a beat, using Conner Stapleton, Alex Lucas, Calvin Daggett and others to run for 409 yards in last week’s 62-6 sectional semifinal win at Franklin Community.
“The line has had games where it’s been really good,” Moore said calmly, specifically alluding to victories againstTerre Haute South, Ben Davis, North Central and Martinsville. “What happens is when Max and Logan are playing, we’re more of a perimeter team. Now it’s more of a between-the-tackles type of team. It does change their attitude because it’s a different kind of blocking.”
If any one player is qualified to stack the 2011 and 2012 offensive lines up against one another, it’s Woods, who before his career is over might be, according to Moore, “one of the five or 10 best linemen in Center Grove history.”
“The only difference, really, is size, but the heart and determination are definitely there because of what happened last year at Carmel,” said Woods of the 21-17 semistate loss to the eventual Class 5A state champion, a game the Trojans led 17-0 at halftime. “Our motto this year is ‘Unfinished business.’”
So far this season, business has been good. If Center Grove’s offensive line is still practicing three weeks from now, go ahead and upgrade it to great.