The physicality associated with playing on the offensive line in high school football makes having interchangeable parts a necessity more than a luxury.
Center Grove coach Eric Moore was abruptly reminded of this following the first play of his team’s sectional-opener against New Albany on Oct. 25.
As starting center Jacob Vance hobbled off the field with what would be a season-ending foot injury in a 70-14 blowout victory, experience already had equipped Moore with a quality Plan B.
Number 71 over there. The guy who for two seasons had been Plan A.
Alex Woods started at center for the Trojans as a sophomore and junior and was moved to right tackle this season out of necessity. He returned to his old position for one game, the 35-0 shutout in the mud at Jeffersonville in the sectional final, but was back at right tackle last week against Southport.
Whatever most benefits the team.
“What happened to Jacob was heartbreaking. We knew it was bad when he came off the field. Austin Smogor replaced him at center in the New Albany game, but we started Alex there against Jeffersonville because they had a humongous nose tackle,” Moore explained.
The plan is for Smogor, a 6-foot-3, 270-pound junior, to be Center Grove’s starting center for however many games the Trojans have left in them this season.
“Alex is an excellent center, but we need him at right tackle,” Moore said. “He’s as athletic as any lineman we’ve ever had here. Very agile and can run. The kind of kid who can play about any sport.”
Picturing Woods with a soccer ball in front of him or a basketball in his hands might not be the reach it would be for some 6-3, 270-pound seniors starting for a third straight season at a Class 6A football program.
The athleticism is what makes him unique.
Woods to this point has three college football programs showing interest in him — four-time Division II national champion Grand Valley State along with NAIA programs Marian University and Taylor University.
Wherever Woods winds up, his current coach views him as a center at the next level. While playing the various points of the offensive line has been a definite learning device, Woods is most at home lowering his large frame over a football to start each offensive play.
“I’ve been everywhere on the line this season. I started at guard then went to tackle the second game and center after Jacob got hurt against New Albany,” Woods said. “Obviously, my experience helps so much. Moving back to center wasn’t a big deal at all. That’s where I’m most comfortable.”
Not that Woods doesn’t make for an effective right tackle. That’s where he’ll line up Friday night at Class 6A semistate foe Warren Central, helping create holes for Center Grove’s stable of backs led by fullback Lane Morris and wingbacks Max Norris and Logan Hutson.
After coming up short at semistate the past two seasons to eventual 5A state champions Carmel and Lawrence Central, Woods firmly believes he and his Trojans cohorts are primed to finally break through.
“It’s time. Third time’s a charm,” Woods said. “Losing like we did against Carmel two years ago and then with all the injuries we had last season, we just weren’t all there. Other than Jacob, everyone is pretty much healthy now. I think we’re ready to go.”