Football Seeks 2nd Consecutive Semistate Win at Ben Davis

Quarterback+Tayven+Jackson+looks+to+pass+in+the+team%27s+57-14+win+over+Pike

Abby Matthews

Quarterback Tayven Jackson looks to pass in the team’s 57-14 win over Pike

Earl Ridlen, Staff Writer

When 6A No. 1 Center Grove takes the field tonight at Ben Davis, a berth in next weekend’s state championship game will be on the line. After running the table during the regular season, finishing a perfect 9-0, Center Grove has won its three tournament games by a combined score of 135-14. Tonight, they face a Ben Davis squad they beat 35-12 earlier in the season.

Ben Davis (7-5) is led by junior quarterback J’uan Swanson. Swanson has 1,706 passing yards with 18 touchdowns and 9 interceptions, on top of 451 rushing yards and six rushing touchdowns. The Giants’ starting running back is hurt, but backup running back Devon Wiley stepped up last week against Carmel, running for 103 yards on 12 carries. On the season he averages 6.8 yards a carry and has five touchdowns despite getting limited touches as a backup.

“They have a great passing game and their quarterback has improved throughout the year. He is capable of throwing the long ball and scrambling out of pocket,” senior cornerback Dane Young said. “Our approach has only changed a little bit. We have seen on film that the quarterback and defensive back core has been becoming comfortable with their roles on their team, so we are understanding their tendencies even better than we did the first time we played them.”

The Giants’ starting running back is hurt, but backup running back Devon Wiley stepped up last week against Carmel, running for 103 yards on 12 carries. On the season he averages 6.8 yards a carry and has five touchdowns despite getting limited touches as a backup.

“They remind me a lot of us last year,” senior safety Brayton Spetter said. “We were 4-5 going into the playoffs and we turned it up and [went] on a winning streak.”

Much like last year’s Center Grove team that finished the regular season 4-5 before making a run to the state title game, Ben Davis started 1-3. However, the Giants have won their last five games with an average point differential of 29.0. Center Grove will look to its defense to slow down a Giants offense that has put up over 40 points in four of its last five games.

“I just think that we need to take advantage of what their [offensive line] gives us,” junior defensive tackle Caden Curry said. “I [have to] make sure that I take advantage of all of their mess ups.”

On offense, Center Grove will look to continue a balanced attack, led by quarterback Tayven Jackson, who has a total of 1,605 passing yards with 14 touchdowns and only 3 interceptions. He also has 184 rushing yards and six rushing touchdowns. The Trojans’ senior running back Carson Steele has 1408 rushing yards and 26 touchdowns on the season.

“Ben Davis has a lot of athletes all over the field with a lot of speed. They are very physical so we need to be prepared for that. We need to control the ball and make smart decisions,” senior split end Trent Veith said. “We have to be physical on the line and while blocking. We have to hit them harder than they are going to hit us.”

A victory tonight would send Center Grove into the state championship game next weekend at Lucas Oil for the second straight season, matching up with the winner of tonight’s Merrillville-Westfield semi state game.

“I will always preach to believe in ourselves,” cornerbacks’ coach Brian Harbin said. “I believe that as long as we play hard and do what we know how to do then there’s no way that we can lose this game.”