Nine seconds is all it took to set the tone of Friday night’s Class 5A sectional championship game at Center Grove. Double it, and that might be how long Drew Wozniak felt the football was suspended in midair.
Columbus North opted for some trickery at the outset, an onside kick that bounced once before being plucked from the chilly night air by Wozniak, a Trojans’ junior whose 51-yard return for a touchdown gave the hosts immediate momentum in what evolved into a 42-7 romp.
“We teach our kids to keep your eye on the ball and to be an athlete. Drew did a good job of keeping his feet active and ran it down there,” said 14th-year Trojans coach Eric Moore following what is the eighth sectional title in school history and seventh since Moore took over.
Next up for Class 5A’s sixth-ranked squad (11-1) is a regional date at home next week against No. 3 Castle (12-0), which defeated Jeffersonville on Friday night.
Using three first-half touchdown passes from junior quarterback Luke Calvert, Center Grove jumped out to a 35-0 lead against the Bulldogs, who came into Friday’s matchup with a five-game win streak after getting off to a 1-5 start to the season.
By night’s end, Calvert made good on 7 of 11 passes for 119 yards, while junior back Alex Lucas led all ball carriers with 153 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries.
Also playing a prominent role was the Trojans defense, which limited Columbus North to 207 total yards on 61 offensive plays.
“I thought our defense played lights-out, especially in that first half,” Moore aid. “Everything we did seemed to work.”
Of the Bull Dogs’ 39 running plays, Center Grove stuffed six behind the line of scrimmage, including four sacks of Columbus North junior quarterback Michael Vogel. Senior tailback Jesse Tompkins led the Bull Dogs in rushing with 20 carries for 69 yards.
Bull Dogs coach Tim Bless made no apologies afterward for the onside kick.
“We decided to roll the dice and try to steal a possession or two. Center Grove’s team is incredible and they had one heck of a first quarter,” Bless said moments after hugging every one of his players. “It’s the toughest night of the year.
“The highs in this game are incredibly high and the lows are incredibly low.”
Following Wozniak’s return, the hosts didn’t let up. Center Grove, on the strength of a pair of Calvert-to-Kyle Buchanan scoring connections, led 21-0 after one period before padding the margin with touchdowns from Lucas and junior fullback Lane Morris in the second for a 35-0 halftime cushion.
Center Grove produced 278 yards of offense before intermission compared to 79 for Columbus North.