Trojan football aims for unprecedented 2nd consecutive state championship win


S. Findley

Offensive lineman Jacob Newlin snaps the ball during the Trojans’ semistate win against Ben Davis.

Zach Greller and Sam Findley

The greatest run in Indiana 6A football history is on the line tonight at Lucas Oil. Twenty-seven straight wins, repeat MIC champions and the unparalleled: two straight undefeated seasons and back-to-back 6A state champs.

Center Grove will need to defeat Westfield in the 6A state championship for this incredible run to end on a high note.

The Trojans’ foe won’t be totally unfamiliar. Last year’s state title also came in a victory over Westfield; however, the Trojans will be facing a more experienced and talented unit.

On Westfield’s offensive side, they hold a strong passing game with senior quarterback Maximus Webster leading the charge, boasting–so far this season–2123 passing yards, 16 touchdowns and only two interceptions. Webster isn’t a one-trick pony, also racking up 7 rushing touchdowns and 443 rushing yards on the season.

Head Coach Eric Moore had praise for Webster at the coaches’ round table last Monday.

“If you’re going to make it to the championship, you have to have a pretty good quarterback,” Moore said.

Limiting two-way dual-threat quarterbacks isn’t a completely new task for Center Grove. The Trojans have typically held a strong rushing defense, but James Schott acknowledges the difficulties of guarding quarterbacks like Webster.

“We need to make sure to contain the quarterback’s pocket to get rid of his running threat and to make safe adjustments in the secondary to limit his passing ability,” Schott said.

If one might point out an imperfection in the dominant Trojans team, it would lie within their secondary defensive unit. The last two weeks have only highlighted the weakness with Lawrence North’s Montez Jones connecting for 223 passing yards and Ben Davis’ quarterback J’Uan Swanson throwing for 222 yards and 1 touchdown.

The Trojan defense will have to shut down Webster’s multiple passing targets. The Ball State commit has thrown to a plethora of wide receivers including Gabriel Aramboles, who has received for a team-high 587 yards, and four receivers who have 400+ receiving yards and 3+ receiving touchdowns.

“We have to focus on our keys. As long as we do what we worked on in practice we will be able to guard them. They have a good QB but average WRs,” defensive back Mitchell Evans said.

On the ground, Westfield’s Webster won’t be alone with the Shamrocks boasting a strong rushing game funded by Micah Hauser, who has rushed for 1215 yards and 23 touchdowns. Merrillville saw the result of not stopping Hauser in last week’s semi-state game when the senior running back rushed for 170 yards and 3 touchdowns.

Although Westfield’s defense has been less formidable than their offense, the Trojans will still have players to watch out for, including defensive end Popye Williams. The Louisville commit has been deadly in getting to the quarterback, having a team-high six sacks. The Trojans will need to limit Williams if they want to get either the passing or rushing game going.

“We have plenty of experience against great D[efensive] ends every day in practice, so I think we are well prepared,” offensive lineman Sam Buras said.

It is no secret that Center Grove’s rushing game has been a key to coach Moore’s system. Drew Wheat has been this year’s lead back with a team-high 987 yards and 13 rushing touchdowns. Wheat saw very little action in the Trojan’s semi-state victory over Ben Davis but . Center Grove was able to make up for the lost firepower with Daniel Weems and Micah Coyle who rushed for 113 yards and 68 yards respectively.

The Trojans ability to make up for any injuries and thrive in the rushing game will be a key.

“I’m going to step up like last week and show that CG has depth in the running backs and we have playmakers all around the offense,” DB Micah Coyle said.

Center Grove isn’t just a rushing team with the Trojan’s offense being led by quarterback and Tennessee commit Tayven Jackson, who has been a threat both in running and passing and will be the key to a successful Trojans offense.

If all goes right for the Trojans they will have done the unprecedented at the highest level of Indiana high school football. A Center Grove victory would be the first state title taken this year and would be the crowning jewel of coach Moore’s 23-year tenure with the Trojans.

“It’s not everything in the world. But it would be an awesome honor for our kids, you know, 20 years down the road, they can meet and talk about this stuff. That’s our theme this year. It’s not ‘For Moore,’ it’s been ‘That Team.’ We don’t want to be that team. We want to be that team that continues to win. We want to be that team that is remembered forever. We don’t want to be that team that didn’t win the MIC and lost in the last weekend. We don’t want to be that team that lost to Cathedral during their undefeated season,” Moore said. “We didn’t want to be that team that had a slip-up and then didn’t win the regional or sectional. We want to be that team that gets to Lucas Oil two times in a row as an undefeated team. We’re not thinking about anything in the past. You know, Saturday, we’re just wanting to get to that Saturday and be as great as we can be.”