Senior staff writer
With those words, Center Grove senior Hayden Gorall summed up his classmate’s drive to lead the Trojans to their first Class 2A boys soccer state championship Saturday night at the Michael A. Carroll Track & Soccer Stadium.
The No. 8 Trojans (20-2-1) utilized a dominant midfield defense, agile senior goalkeeper Logan Wade’s agility and a strike-first offense to shut out No. 9 West Lafayette Harrison, 4-0.
The Trojans’ 13 seniors exorcized the Evansville hex by snatching the Evansville Semistate title Oct. 24 with two wins after failing to advance from there to the state finals for three straight years.
Center Grove’s shutout was its fourth in seven playoff games and 10th this season for first-year coach Jameson McLaughlin.
Gorall and Nathan Silva scored goals in the first half, and Conrad Bomber (awesome name for a soccer player) and Roman Johnson added two goals in the second half; classmate Kyle Parry had two assists.
“We didn’t change our strategy because we knew if we played the way we are capable of playing, play fast, play smart and play quick, that we would come away with the win,” McLaughlin said after the teams’ state championship photos had been snapped. “To go into the second half with the lead was a big deal because we finished strong in the second half all season.”
The Trojans survived a Raiders’ offensive blitz that featured six shots in the final 3 1/2 minutes of the first half. Wade made three saves, three were off. Wade had seven saves for the game. The Raiders fired 17 shots but came up empty-handed.
“It was important because you don’t want to give up a goal that late in the first half,” McLaughlin said. “That little defensive stand meant a lot. We had a tendency all year to let up in the last 10 minutes of the first half.”
The team’s seniors are Gorall, Silva, Bomber, Johnson, Wade, Parry, Keaton Radecki, Reed Sauter, Andrew Vidal, Jesse Sherman, Caleb Skinner, Bryan Wheeler and Patrick Southern. Bomber wound up with a team-high 48 goals; Wade, only 5-8 but nimble, had 124 saves and 14 shutouts.
“Our seniors are outstanding young men,” McLaughlin said. “If you see their GPAs, they are super-intelligent kids. They have been a pleasure to work with all year.”
The Trojans reached the state finals by shutting out Martinsville, Whiteland and Franklin Central and defeating Mount Vernon, Bloomington South and Carmel.