Center Grove players huddle with their semi-state trophy as they pose for pictures following Friday’s 33-10 victory over Cathedral on the Arsenal Tech field.
By Steve Page
For one brief moment Friday night, it appeared déjà vu had arrived for Center Grove’s football team.
As they were a month ago in their regular-season meeting with Cathedral, the Trojans were moving ahead. A month ago, they fumbled the ball away after reaching the Irish 2-yard line. Cathedral then rallied from a 16-point deficit for a 40-29 victory.
Near the end of the first half of Friday’s Class 6A semi-state game at Arsenal Tech, the Trojans, leading 17-10, drove to a first-and-goal at the Irish 6.
After a pileup at the line of scrimmage, the Irish believed they had recovered another critical Trojan fumble.
The officials ruled that Center Grove retained possession. On the next play, senior running back Micah Coyle scored from the 4. Though the conversion kick was blocked, the Trojans had a 23-10 lead.
They kept going from there, with a balanced blend of offense and defense that paved the way to a 33-10 victory.
With the win on the snowy and cold Irish home field, the fourth-ranked Trojans improved to 11-2. The two-time defending state champions will now play fifth-rated Carroll, 13-0, at 7 p.m. Friday in the warm confines of Lucas Oil Stadium. Cathedral finishes at 10-2 with its first loss since falling at Brownsburg in August.
So was this a game of revenge for the Trojans?
“No, it was more about really focusing,” said senior defensive lineman Ryan Roehling. “We made sure we completed the fourth quarter.”
After falling behind 10-0 in the first quarter, the Trojans completed the next three quarters, erupting for 23 points in the second period and adding 7 in the third quarter and a second Nolan Foley field goal in the final frame. They scored on five straight possessions.
“We took that last game personally,” Trojan coach Eric Moore said of the earlier setback. “We really worked on it this week. The defensive coaches really worked on it.”
They did indeed.
Roehling and his defensive teammates sacked Cathedral quarterback Danny O’Neil seven times, made three stops on fourth down and linebacker Kaden McConnell intercepted a pass that ended a third-quarter scoring threat. In the first meeting, O’Neil went 25-43-2 for 410 yards and five touchdowns. On Friday, the Trojans limited him to seven completions in 16 attempts for 79 yards and no touchdowns.
“Contain the quarterback with our edge guys,” Roehling said of the defensive plan. “That let us pressure the middle. Our linebackers were great back there. With our defensive backs, the line could get after it. We really got after it. We were firing on all cylinders. We had the energy.”
So did the offense.
The Trojans, who surrendered eight sacks of quarterback Tyler Cherry in the first meeting, gave up just one, in the first quarter.
Coyle ran for touchdowns of 4, 38, 2 and 16 yards, finishing with 218 yards on 32 rushes. Senior Jalen Thomeson added 85 yards on 18 carries and caught a Cherry pass for six yards. With that running attack, Cherry didn’t have to throw much, going 3-9-0 for 43 yards. Foley kicked field goals of 26 yards in the second quarter and 39 in the fourth after the Trojans chewed up more than half of the final frame with a 14-play drive.
“All teams who run the ball run better in the cold,” Coyle said. “We had a plan: Cram it down their throats. Me and the offensive line have great chemistry. It was even stronger tonight.”
Lineman Austin Wiese concurred.
“After the first quarter, we had to be tougher, be more physical,” said the 6-5, 300-pound senior. “That’s all. Just get after it. They have big guys. We had to drive hard and score.”
“In that first quarter, we didn’t come out and play like we should have, physically,” Moore said. “But this is a great Trojan team with a lot of perseverance. We’ve played great football teams all year and we knew we had to stand up and fight, and we did. I’m proud of them.”