Senior staff writer
Center Grove and Lutheran are one win away from a date at Lucas Oil Stadium for football state championship games.
The upstart No. 9 Trojans (9-3), winners of seven straight games, visit No. 1 Warren Central (12-0), a familiar playoff foe, Friday at 7 p.m. in a 6A semifinal title game.
The winner meets the No. 3 Carmel/No. 10 Valparaiso winner for the 6A state championship Friday, Nov. 23, at 7:05 p.m.
In Class A, No. 7 Lutheran (10-3) is host to nemesis and No. 6 North Vermillion (10-3) at 7:30 p.m. Friday for a semifinal crown with the winner facing unbeatens in No. 1 Pioneer or No. 2 Adams Central for the state title at noon Saturday, Nov. 24.
Center Grove won its 13th regional championship Friday with a dominating 17-0 triumph over visiting Avon, coached by Greenwood native Mark Bless. The Trojans scored early in the first quarter on a 65-yard touchdown scamper by sophomore sensation Carson Steele, who finished with 194 yards on 14 carries. Coach Eric Moore’s charges went ahead 14-0 in the second quarter when Matt Pence returned a interception 67 yards for a TD.
The Trojans’ Luke Eckert capped the scoring with a 28-yard field goal. The Orioles were held to 66 yards on the ground and 129 yards in the air. The Trojans face Warren Central in a rematch of the regular-season opener won by the Warriors, 27-12.
However, Center Grove seeks its third straight playoff win against the Warriors. The Trojans downed WC 24-13 for a regional title in 2015 as they marched to their second state championship. One year later, CG downed WC 27-15 for another regional crown but lost to Carmel 16-13 in overtime in the state title game.
Lutheran is trying for the fourth time for its first trip to the state championship game. In past semifinal rounds the Saints fell to Eastern Greene last year and to Linton-Stockton in 2016. North Vermillion has been a thorn in the Saints’ side, downing them 55-37 in regional action in 2015 and 37-19 in a semistate game in 2014. Lutheran won its fourth regional title by upending host South Putnam 36-20 Friday.
Coach Dave Pasch’s Saints rely on a solid ground game, which is led by Marcus McFadden. He romped for two TD runs in the second quarter and gained 206 yards with 135 more yards from Dante Atkins, who put the Saints on the scoreboard with a 3-yard run.
The Saints stayed in command and built a 36-8 lead before South Putnam scored twice. Since losing to 2A Scecina, Lutheran has went on a dominant seven-game winning streak by averaging 34.8 points on offense and holding opponents to 10.5 points.