Nobody informed Center Grove that awful weather conditions are supposed to be football’s great neutralizer.
If you’re good, you’re good. And the Class 5A No. 4 Trojans are just that, rolling to a 35-7 victory at North Central on a miserably cold and rainy night.
Needing a win to remain in contention for a share of the Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference title, Center Grove rode the 157 rushing yards of junior fullback Lane Morris to improve to 7-1 overall and 5-1 in the league standings.
“I’m proud of our team. The kids showed a lot of integrity playing in those conditions,” Trojans coach Eric Moore said after watching his program avenge this past season’s 14-7 loss at home to the Panthers. “Our running backs ran real hard, and it really looked like we knew what we were doing.
“I’m just glad it didn’t turn into a turnover-fest.”
Overall, the Center Grove ground game sloshed its way to 365 rushing yards, with senior halfback Conner Stapleton contributing 85 and a score on only six carries.
The Trojans’ defense recorded a shutout (North Central’s lone points were on a blocked punt late in the game) and limited the hosts to 178 yards of total offense on 58 plays.
Moore’s team likely will need this type of effort and more next week when its plays hosts to Warren Central in its regular-season finale.
A win against the Warriors, coupled with a Ben Davis victory at Class 5A No. 1 Carmel, would make the Trojans, Giants and Greyhounds tri-MIC champions with identical 6-1 marks.
North Central (2-6) came in finding it difficult to locate the end zone, having averaged 12 points a contest. Thus, a Center Grove lead, any lead, at the outset would most likely make things difficult for Panthers’ coach Keith Shelton and his offense.
Three huge plays, two on offense and one on defense, propelled Center Grove to a 21-0 lead at halftime.
With 4:14 remaining in the first quarter, Stapleton ran left on third-and-6 from the North Central 45 and tight-roped his way down the sideline for the game’s first points.
The Trojans’ second score was set up by Morris’s 69-yard scamper to the Panthers’ 3.
Two plays later saw junior quarterback Luke Calvert sneak in from the 1 for a 13-0 advantage at 7:28 of the second.
Center Grove’s third TD happened after North Central punter Christian Schupay mishandled a snap at his own goal line. The fumble wound up in the end zone in the arms of Trojans linebacker Tyler Amaro. Alex Lucas ran in the two-point conversion.
Two second-half touchdowns lifted the Trojans’ to a 35-0 advantage before the Panthers averted the shutout late by blocking a Center Grove punt. Linebacker Darrell Houge scooped up the loose football and ran it in from 15 yards out.