By Al Stilley, Steve Page, Bob White & Tyce Treadway
How can the new football season possibly be better than 2022 when 6A Center Grove and 1A Lutheran won state championships in Lucas Oil Stadium?
The Trojans and Saints reload again with veterans and younger players who are well-coached in fundamentals and systems to step in. Center Grove, no longer in the elite MIC league, is a first-time independent this season.
Throughout the Southside, this season promises to be better up and down for most Southside teams.
Franklin Central is primed to make more noise in the rugged Hoosier Crossroads Conference with second-year coach Jayson West. Opening at home Friday, the Flashes will honor its gridiron program with the inaugural induction ceremony of its FCHS Football Wall of Fame at halftime against county foe Perry Meridian.
Roncalli expects to be more physical with first-year coach Eric Quintana. Perry Meridian has its most experienced team in several years. Look for Whiteland to flex its muscle in the Mid-State.
Greenwood, Decatur Central, Beech Grove and Christel House Manual will field young teams.
None of those teams will be as young as Greenwood Christian Academy as the Cougars field their inaugural football team with a lot of promise for the future and coach Andre Dobson. GCA’s schedule includes varsity and JV teams.
The games begin this Friday on rivalry night with Lutheran at Beech Grove, Roncalli at Southport, Perry Meridian at Franklin Central, and Warren Central at Center Grove.
The team-by-team outlook (all stats from 2022 season)
CENTER GROVE (6A,14-0, state champions)
Trojans seek three-peat as 6A state champs ... 28-game winning streak ... Caden Curry (Ohio State), James Schott (Michigan State), and Tayven Jackson (Tennessee) among graduation losses ... coach Eric Moore (24th year, 224-72) reloads with traditional Wing-T and aggressive defense ... no longer in MIC but 2022 schedule has familiar foes.
Offense: RB-Drew Wheat, Sr., 1,003 yards rushing, 15 TDs; RB-Micah Coyle, Sr.,725 yards rushing, 9 TDs; WR/RB-Eli Hohlt, Sr., 16 catches, 284 yards, 2 TDs; WR-Noah Coy, Jr., 5 catches in state title game; QB - Tyler Cherry, Jr.; OL-Charlie Gardner, Sr.; OL-Austin Wiese, Sr.
Defense: LB/S-Jalen Thomeson, Sr.; 48 tackles; 4 forced fumbles; S-Gavin Oakes, Sr., 35 tackles, 2 interceptions; DB-Parker Doyle, Sr., 18 tackles, 2 interceptions; LB-Owen Bright, Jr., 27 tackles, state champ. game-winning interception; DL-Nate Johnson, Jr., anchors defense.
Coach Moore: “With a 28-game win streak and many high-profile players graduating, expectations for this team will appear to be down. That said, the standard is set and if the opposition doesn’t come prepared, CG will sneak up on them. There are still a lot of players back that experienced extensive action last year. Our offense should be able to score points and again will be primarily a Wing-T concept. The defense will be a group that gets better as the year goes. We will remain a 4-3 scheme.”
FRANKLIN CENTRAL (6A, 4-6)
Entering 5th season in rugged Hoosier Crossroads Conference ... won 3 games in league last year with first-year coach Jayson West ... winless in league in 2020 ... 8-2 in 2017, last year in Conference Indiana ... primed for giant step ... open at home Friday against Perry Meridian on inaugural FCHS Football Wall of Fame induction night.
Offense: QB/P-Nevan Tuterow, So., 1,200 yards passing, 7 TDs; RB-Braylen Gillard, Jr., 700 yards; RB-Francisco Marroquin, Sr.; RB-Bryant Hoskins, Sr.; WR-Will McKinley, Jr.; WR-Anthony Coker, Sr.; Damir Swanigan, So.; TE-JakeNewman, Sr.; OL-Ethan Lecher, Sr.; OL-Mike Eckerty, Jr.; OL-Andrew Just, Sr.; OL-Cedric Robinson, Sr.; OL-Blake Bishop, Sr.; OL-Mike Kemp, Sr.
Defense: DE-Julius Parker, Sr. 7 sacks; DL-Nathan Surber, Sr.; DL-Tony Miller, Sr.; DE-Talan Humphrey, Sr.; LB-Bryce Kriech, Jr.; LB-Wyatt Penney, Sr., leading tackler; LB-Eli Cox, Sr.; LB-Jeremiah Smith, Sr,; LB-Shawn Hatchett, Jr.; DB-Hudauri Hines, Jr.; DB-Drew Lawrence, Jr.; DB-Jayon Harvey, Jr., 5 interceptions; DB-Lauron Johnson, Jr.; S-Caden Logue, Jr.; K-Zach Nasseans, So.
Coach West: “We had a pretty good off season. The kids have bought into the process of training for football, so we are excited to see what gains we have made on the the field from their off the field commitments.”
PERRY MERIDIAN (6A, 2-8)
Third season under coach Brett Cooper ... put together back to back wins last year ... 5th season in Mid-State against closer foes ... Falcons loaded with experience ... 4 3rd-year starters ... 3 starters back on offensive line ... all starting linebackers/defensive backs return ... talented sophomores ... last winning season 2003 ... open Friday against former Conference Indiana foe Franklin Central.
Key Falcons (Off./Def.): WR/DB-Landon Eagan, Sr. 8.8 yards per carry, 684 yards receiving; WR/DB-Isaiah Hunter, Sr. 567 yards receiving; OL/DL-Ethan Burton, Sr.; OL/DL-Ryan Ketchem, Sr.; OL/DL-Bryce Blessing, Sr.; LB-Ikanke Inyang Sr.; TE-LB-Aiden Barker, Sr., 48 tackles; QB/DB-Ivan Caldera, Sr.; QB/DB-Zach Huckaby, Jr., 82 tackles; OL/DL-Louis Humphrey, Jr.; RB/LB-Cadyn McBride, Jr.; WR/DB-Isaiah Needam, Jr.; WR/DB-Isaiah Shumway, Jr.; OL/DL-Jordan Stinson, Jr.; RB/LB-Andy Warren, So., 109 tackles; OL/DL-Brycen Richer, So.; WR/DB-Byron Hon, So.; RB/DB-Jonathan Hunter, So.
Coach Cooper: “We return several familiar faces from the 2021 team, seven starters on defense and six starters on offense. We had a great off-season and look forward to the growth and development in our program on the field. We have a strong core group of seniors that will lead us and have vast playing experience. Our junior class returns a lot as well which puts us in a position to compete every Friday. Several of these players will have a year of varsity experience under their belt. We a talented sophomore class that will add to our starting line-up. We will be breaking in a new quarterback that is yet to be determined but feel like all options will make our team stronger. Third year for us is a big measuring stick to see where we stand in the conference and Class 6A. We are excited for the season and watching our players compete.”
SOUTHPORT (6A, 0-10)
Tough debut for first-year coach Alex Bettag ... came close to snapping six-game losing skid but fell to Terre Haute North, 28-21 ... averaged 14.7 points per game, defense allowed 43.8 points ... solid returnees on both sides of ball ... sophs ready to make impact ... open at home Friday against Roncalli.
Offense: QB-Bryce Calvert, Jr., 1,312 yards passing, 9 TDs; RB-Josiah Ottinger, Jr., 68 carries, 219 yards; TE-Brandon Riddle, Sr.25 catches, 325 yards, 3TDs; WR-Pierce Birge, Sr., 49 catches, 317 yards, 1TD; WR-Carter McGaha, Jr. DNP (injured); WR-Devin Wilson, Jr.; OL-Zachary Chambers, Sr., 12 pancake blocks; OL-Bo Lopez, Jr., 15 tackles on defense; OL-Carter Hartman, Jr., 8 pancake blocks.
Defense: DL-Billy Rust, Sr., 41 tackles, 2 sacks; DL-Addison Meridith, Jr., 28 tackles, 5 QB hits;
LB-Christian VanVolkenburgh, Sr., 71 tackles, 4 sacks, 3 fumble recoveries, 2 forced fumbles.
LB-Daunte Hon, Sr., 53 tackles, 2 sacks; DB-Ramon Pham, Sr., 16 tackles.
Newcomers - LB-Nickens Lemba, Sr., DNP.
Coach Bettag: “We will be a young team with high level upperclassmen leadership. We are very excited about the talent level in our sophomore class. We are expecting 7 to10 of them to be varsity starters. We have had a great off-season and summer, and we are very excited about the commitment level of this group. We have been talking about being ‘all in’ since November, and we can’t wait to start the new season.”
DECATUR CENTRAL (5A, 9-2)
Different look for the Hawks, who have finally exhausted their supply of standout Tracy brothers, including last year’s do-it-all senior, Javon (Miami of Ohio). After losing the second game of season to eventual 6A state champ Center Grove, won eight straight before falling 31-7 to eventual 5A champ Cathedral. Averaged 31.8 points per game while defense allowed 21.3. Opens at home Friday against 6A Columbus North.
Offense: QB-Aycen Stevens, Sr., (Virginia Tech) coming off torn ACL, 296 passing yards, 3 TD’s; RB-Jordan Cox, Sr., 28 carries, 214 yards; FB-Halbert Aguirre, Jr.; WR-Tequan Taylor, Sr.; Duane Alexander, Sr.; Chris Richmond, Jr.
Defense: ILB-Aycen Stevens, Sr., 35 tackles, 3 sacks; DE-Alec Lawson, Sr. 52 tackles, team-leading 7 sacks; Marvin Campbell, Jr., transfer from Perry Meridian, 81 tackles; 5 sacks, 1 fumble recovery; DT-Trey Hall, Sr.; OLB-Alberto Murillo, Sr., 34 tackles, 3 sacks; ILB-Cameron Renick, Sr., 28 tackles; Halbert Aguirre, Jr. 60 tackles; S-Presley Newkirk, Jr.; Breydon LaFollette, Jr., Duane Alexander, Sr., Elijah Tramil, Jr., Russell Peterson, Jr., Brayden Coffey, Sr.
Newcomers: WR-Fa’Rel Carter, Fr.; QB Bo Polston, Fr.
Coach Kyle Entright: “We lost a lot of graduates. We had 13 guys go to college football. It was a very productive senior class. They accounted for a lot of yards, a lot of tackles. We have senior guys up front who are experienced and senior leaders. The front seven on defense is our most veteran group. Our secondary is young, but have talent, with no experience, so they’re going to have to grow up quick.”
WHITELAND (5A, 6-4)
Coach Darrin Fisher enters 18th year with Warriors (118-71) .... take care of home (James Sleighter) field with 64-29 mark ... return with 15 starters, 10 on offense that put up 325 yards per game ... traditionally jell in October ... chasing 8th Mid-State title ... seek 7th sectional trophy ... open with non-conference foes, at Columbus East Friday and home opener against Lawrence North, Aug. 26.
Offense: OT-Tayton Schakel, Sr., Junior All-State, 2-time All Mid-State; RB-Peyton Emberton, Sr., 976 yards rushing, 8 TDs; QB-Kevin Denham, Sr., 455 yards passing, 7 TDs; WB-Gunnar Hicks, Jr., 378 yards rushing; WB-Nyrius Moore-Smith, So., 11.0 yards per carry; FB-Jakarrey Oliver, Sr., 6.9 yards per carry; G-Dylan Kidwell, 3-year starter; C-Josh Merriman, Sr..; T-Will Hagan; G-Zach Yaryan.
Defense: DL-Peyton Dotson, Sr., 52 tackles; LB-Dalton Hughes, Sr., 63 tackles, 4 sacks; DL-Mason Darlington, Sr., 41 tackles; S-Brady Stanifer, 73 tackles; K-David Mathis, Sr., 7 FG, 36 of 36 PAT.
Coach Fisher: “The commitment to team from 2021 has carried forward into precision, passion and relentless energy in preparation for the 2022 season. We have all five offensive linemen back and 80 percent of our offensive production return on offense. Experienced kicker and punter both return. Illness and injury in 2021 gave opportunities to play meaningful minutes and gain valuable experience to many others when called upon. We have to replace playmakers on the defensive line, linebacker and defensive back positions. Some returning starters will get snaps on both sides of the ball this season. How fast can talented underclassmen be ready to step in?”
GREENWOOD (4A, 2-8)
Coach Mike Campbell in 17th season (84-95) ... graduated running backs (Gavin Ruppert and Noah Apgar) combined 1,794 yards rushing ... seek first winning campaign since 2017, reached semistate ... open with three consecutive home games, starting Friday against Seymour.
Offense: TE-Carter Campbell, Sr.; OL-Kobe Keithley, Jr.; RB- Jackson Haessig, Jr. 4.6 yards per carry; FB-Alan Burnett, Jr.; QB-Brock Riddle, Jr., 402 yards passing, 5TDs; WR-Ethan Pringle, Sr.; TE/WR-Jack Titzer, Sr.; OL-Aidan Crist, Sr.
Defense: LB-Cooper Smith, Jr. 55 tackles; LB-Scotty Raker, Sr. 60 tackles; DB-Colin Robbins, Sr.; DB-Tanner Crouch, Jr., 39 tackles.
Newcomers: WR-Bobby Emberton, So.; DL-Brady Cave, So.; LB-Cole Basey, Jr.; K-Jens Hvid, Jr.
Coach Campbell: “We will field yet another competitive 4A football squad. I like our toughness, and we’ll try to get after you. We are thin (depth). As usual an unforgiving regular season schedule will prepare them for postseason play.”
RONCALLI (4A, 12-1)
New coach Eric Quintana follows in the footsteps of departed John Rodenberg, 25-2 in two seasons with the Royals ... went 3-0 in Circle City last year; didn’t lose until falling to eventual state champion Mt. Vernon in state regional round. … averaged 38.9 points per game, defense allowed 21.3. … solid returnees except at quarterback, but almost all of last year’s stat leaders were seniors … open against Southside rivals, at Southport Friday and home opener against Franklin Central, Aug. 26.
Offense: QB-Arik Moyers, Sr., transfer from Plainfield who is coming off a torn ACL and was seldom used after injury; RB-Luke Hansen, Sr., 189 carries, 1,458 yards, 17 TDs; WR-Dylan Koglin, Sr., 6 receptions, 79 yards; OL-Trevor Lauck, Sr., 6-6, 285 (Iowa); C-Luke Skartvedt, Sr. (Northern Illinois), moves from right tackle, wears No. 63 in memory of IMPD officer David Moore; LG-Brady Neu, Sr., moves from NG with 53 tackles last year.
Defense: DB-Andrew Baugh, Sr., 70 tackles, 5 interceptions; DT-Luke Swartz, Sr., 72 tackles, 2.5 sacks as NG; DE-Nolan Tunny, Sr., 45 tackles; LB-Joey Uberta, Sr., returning from injury; CB-Judson Lawrie, Sr.; CB-George Marten, Sr.; K-Levi Wisler, Jr.
Newcomers: LB-Ben Brandenburg, Jr., moves from running back.
Coach Quintana: “We’ll have a different team identity. We will be extremely physical. Our senior class is great. Strong class of juniors. Sophomores have stepped in. We’re going to run the football, but we’ll take advantage of space and numbers. We’re going to be a tough team to beat every week. We want to chase No. 11 (state championship).”
BEECH GROVE (3A, 3-7)
Hornets won three games in first year under former Southport coach Brandon Winters ... experience in offensive line has four returning starters ... two quarterbacks vying to start ... returnees key to quick start ... in rugged 4A Sectional 22 ... first four games are Indiana Crossroads foes ... open at home Friday against reigning Class A state champ Lutheran.
Offense: QB-Skyler Thacker; QB-Jay’mar Davis; WR-Mactavis Smith. 12.5 yards per catch, RB-Aeden Crawley; OL-David Sims; OL-Triston Moles; OL-Jack Broadwell; OL-Mikey Moore.
Defense: DL-Aaron Norman; DL-Julius Florence; DL-Angel Hernandez; DL-Jonathan Dabner; LB-Cantrell Byrd, DB-Lawrence Lewis; DL-Dominic Jennings.
Newcomers: RB-Jeremiah Lee; TE-Hunter Parr-Stokes; WR-Lacy Stephens, WR-Brion Murry; WR-Jaquez Gant; DL-Dusty Miller; DL-Christian Corn; DL-Isaiah Carpenter; DB-Maki Jordan; DB-Brayden Cruz; DB-Kristian Morlan.
Coach Winters: “We will rely heavily on our returning players. They worked through some growing pains last season with learning how we want to practice and play. They have done a great job of embracing the fact that mastering new things takes time. We have seen significant growth with that over the summer and in camp. This senior class has never experienced a fully normal season of varsity football. I am hopeful things continue in a way that will allow for this year to be that year for them. They absolutely deserve it. August 19 (opening game) can’t come soon enough.”
CHRISTEL HOUSE MANUAL (2A, 2-6)
Second season as combined Christel House Manual ... also second time at helm for coach John Prater ... defeated Bowman Academy and Oldenburg Academy ... team was mixture of a few Manual veterans and first-time varsity Christel House players ... Christel House experience was flag football ... scored 15.7 points per game, gave up 29.8 per game ... Eagles (previously Redskins) to make more progress this time around ... open Friday at Noblesville Home School, the first home game Aug. 26 at Ray Schultz Field.
GREENWOOD CHRISTIAN ACADEMY (1A, first season)
After years of hoping and waiting, football is a reality at GCA ... first-year coach Andre Dobson brings two decades of experience
... arrived in January to launch program ... 19 players are first-time Cougars ... very young team ... most players were in 8th grade last year ... practice field at GCA north campus ... home games at Center Grove Middle School North ... schedule is varsity-JV combo ... first all-varsity home game is Saturday, Aug. 29 against Phalen Academy.
Key players: OL/DL-Luke Chitty, Jr.; QB/FS-Trey Dobson, Fr.; WR/DB-Jaeden Garrett, Fr.; RB/SS-Nathan Goins, Fr.
Coach Dobson: “There’s energy and excitement to take to the field for the first time. The potential is now in place. We have an amazing group of freshman players. The program will build rapidly. The community will see that, as a team and school, we are all ‘after it.”
LUTHERAN (1A, 15-0, State Champions
Coach Dave Pasch in 15th year at Saints helm (123-53) ... finally claimed Class A state title against Adams Central, 34-28 in second state finals appearance ... offense averaged 42.0 points per game, defense held six foes to single digits ... graduated QB M. Clay, 2,654 yards passing, 1,925 yards rushing, 65 TDs, and Jake Pasch, 149 tackles ... Saints strong up front with solid offense and experienced defense ... open Friday at neighboring Beech Grove, then home Aug. 26 against Ritter.
(Off./Def.): WR/DB-CJ Ervin, Sr.; WR/DB-Josiah King, Sr.; WR/DB-DeVuan Jones, So.; WR/DB-Cur’Brian Shelby, Sr., 51 tackles; QB-DB-Jackson Willis, So.; WR/LB-Jonny HLL, Jr.; RB/LB-Joey Davis, Sr. 1,9654 yards rushing, 11 TDs; WR/DB-Micah Mackay, Sr., 954 yards receiving, 13 TDs, 5 interceptions; WR/LB-Spencer Bauer, 12; OL/LB-Nate Loman, Sr.; OL/LB-Hunter Johnson, 12; OL/DL-Louis Mobley, Sr.; OL/DL-Jack Beard, Jr.; OL/DL-Jacob Roberts, Sr,; 8 sacks; OL/DL-Dylan Duncan, Jr.; WR/DL-Kam Patterson, Sr., 31 tackles; WR/LB-Jake Akins, Sr., 7 sacks.
Coach Pasch: “We’re in a similar position as we are every year. We lose a solid group of really outstanding players. When I look at the young talent ready to step in and fill their shoes, I really feel good. Our lines are almost intact and seven deep. We look at this senior class and they have played an ‘extra season’ because we have played deep in the tournament. These kids have had a lot snaps that other teams haven’t had. When you play late in November every year, it affords you the opportunity to develop young players with all the extra practices.”