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When healthy, Trojans halfback is something special

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One or all of the following scenarios occur every time the ball is handed to No. 15 on the Center Grove football team:

Still behind the line of scrimmage, Max Norris begins to accelerate, an impulse which, while seemingly innocent, touches off hundreds of spectators inching forward in their seats.

Norris finds a crease and uses his sprinter’s speed to dart through before would-be tacklers can properly react.

He’s gone. Maybe 15 or 20 yards downfield. Maybe all the way to the end zone.

In 2013, Norris carried the football 105 times in the Trojans’ wing-T offense — a relatively low total for a program that played 13 games and averaged 266.5 rushing yards every time it took the field.

But that’s Center Grove football. The Trojans are deeper than Barry White’s voice at the running back position, which partially explains Norris contributing only 20 percent of the carries despite averaging 11.9 yards per run.

And that’s Max Norris, who because of nagging hamstring and back issues found himself sitting out at certain times as a junior; he toted the ball eight or fewer times in five of the nine games he played.

All this, and Norris still rushed for 1,259 yards and 17 touchdowns.

“He’s a freak of nature when it comes to running the football. I’ve never seen anyone hit the hole as fast as Max does. If he shakes one tackle, he’s gone. It’s lights out,” said Alex Woods, a starter on the offensive line the past three seasons for the Trojans. “If he stays healthy, I can’t even tell you what he could do stats-wise.

“I could see him breaking school records. I could see him breaking state records.”

Norris, who performed last season at 5-foot-11 and 175 pounds, now weighs 208. He bench-presses 405 pounds, squats 485 and looks the “after” half of one of those old Charles Atlas magazine ads.

Massive in the shoulders, chest and arms, Norris claims to be every bit as fast as at this time last year.

Run by me or over me? That’s the question opposing linebackers and defensive backs must ask themselves in the coming weeks.

“My running style is the exact same except maybe ... instead of doing that one juke move that might only let me get one more yard, I might run straight through them and get five more yards,” Norris said. “I’m not going to try to change up too much because it worked last year.

“Now that I weigh more, maybe I break more tackles.”

Those who follow Center Grove football won’t soon forget the entertainment Norris provided last season in road conquests of Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference rival Carmel in Week 3 and Cincinnati LaSalle in Week 9.

Norris busted loose for 220 yards and TD scampers of 99 and 94 yards in a 35-26 decision against the Greyhounds. At LaSalle he produced 201 yards on 13 carries, including trips to the end zone covering 46, 75 and 85 yards as Norris and his friends left Ohio 55-37 winners.

“He’s a Lamborghini. When Max is on you’re going to get the best there is. Great strength, quickness and agility,” Center Grove coach Eric Moore said. “But we’ve never had a full season out of Max. It would be nice to get a full swing out of him.”

Fortunately for the Trojans, talent in the offensive backfield is delivered in bulk.

Thirteen of the 17 individuals who carried the football for Center Grove last season are back. It’s a list that includes senior Calvin Daggett, juniors Jackson Hohlt, Lee Clinker and Connor Steeb, and sophomore fullback Titus McCoy.

These players accounted for 35 percent of the team’s rushing attempts and 37 percent of the Trojans’ total run yardage.

Already dangerous, Center Grove’s offense is capable of achieving great things if able to consistently add Norris to the mix.

Norris has been part of three consecutive Trojans teams that bowed out in semistate competition — 21-17 to Carmel in 2011 (Class 5A), 28-15 to Lawrence Central in 2012 (5A) and 12-7 at Warren Central (6A) last November.

All three programs went on to capture state titles the following week.

“The day we got beat by Warren Central, I got (defensive end) Gavin Everett and a bunch of offensive and defensive linemen going to work out two times a day. My team, our team, has been doing that every single day this whole summer. Clearly we’re not the biggest, tallest guys, but we are strong and fast,” Norris said.

“I couldn’t care less about my stats. It’s all about my team. All about the coaches telling me what to do. I listen to them. If they want me to carry the ball once, I’ll carry the ball once. If they want me to block, I’ll block. If they want me to carry the ball 100 times, I’ll carry the ball 100 times.”

When on, Norris is special.

It all comes down to the Lamborghini staying on the road and out of the shop.

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