It’s Week 2 of the high school football season, and already members of the Whiteland football team consider themselves road Warriors.
Last Friday’s 43-14 victory at Lafayette Jeff, preceded by a scrimmage at Terre Haute North a week earlier, is enough to make players appreciate the comforts of home.
“To us, playing at home is always important,” said 10th-year Whiteland coach Darrin Fisher, whose teams are 37-14 (.725) on their field. “Defending your home field is very important to us, regardless of who the opponent is.”
This includes Class 6A No. 7 Center Grove, which tonight plays on the Warriors’ field for the first time since the early 1980s.
It’s the fourth consecutive season these Johnson County neighbors have met in a series contracted to run — for now, at least — through 2016.
Center Grove has dominated, having won all three contests by a combined tally of 158-13, including last year’s 56-0 drubbing.
“It’s not a rivalry until both teams can win,” said Fisher, whose club has vaulted to sixth in the Class 5A poll. “We’re working our tails off to make it a rivalry.”
Winning at Lafayette Jeff represents Whiteland’s third consecutive season-opening victory and seventh since Fisher took over in 2005.
The Warriors trailed 7-0 early against the Broncos before erupting for 27 consecutive points to take control behind a running attack that produced 358 yards on 41 carries.
Leading the way was junior Shaw Cloud with 117 yards and two touchdowns on 10 carries.
“It’s always important to start the season 1-0. You put in all that effort in the summer, so it validates what you’ve been doing,” Fisher said. “It doesn’t make or break anything, but it is important.”
Center Grove’s streak of eight straight Week 1 triumphs fell by the wayside last week with a 12-9 overtime loss to visiting Warren Central, the defending 6A state champion.
Though the Trojans performed admirably at the defensive end, 16th-year coach Eric Moore wasn’t the least bit pleased with his team’s inability to capitalize out of its wing-T offense.
“Did Warren Central make us look that bad or did CG make itself look bad? In my eyes it was CG in most instances,” said Moore, whose last season-opening setback was a 26-0 loss at Roncalli in 2005. “Our interior and perimeter running game has to get better because Whiteland’s kids up front do a great job, and their linebackers are physical.”
Center Grove rushed 41 times for a paltry 51 yards in the loss to the Warriors.
Tonight the Trojans play on a grass field for only the fifth time in their past 43 games, the exceptions being postseason road wins against Bedford North Lawrence (2011) and Jeffersonville (2013) and games at former Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference foes Terre Haute North (2012) and Terre Haute South (2011).
“We’re not making that a focal point at all,” Moore said.
Whiteland continues to lead the overall series, 10-8, with the Warriors’ most recent victory coming in 1979.
For Fisher’s program to end what to date is a 35-year gridiron drought against Center Grove, it must erase some of the typical Week 1 mistakes that surfaced at Lafayette Jeff.
“A football team usually improves the most between Week 1 and Week 2,” he said. “Week 2 everyone is going to be better.”