By Ryan Stemle Photo by Jessica Kelly
It was 4th and goal, a few feet away from the end zone and Center Grove was clinging to a five point lead. Titus McCoy, backed by arguably the best offensive line in the state, found his way through the Penn defense to score the game-clinching touchdown.
The Center Grove Trojans faced the Penn Kingsmen last night for the class 6A state championship. Hoping to avenge the loss to Penn in the state finals 15 years ago, the undefeated Trojans charged out of the tunnel at Lucas Oil Stadium with a sea of red around them.
With the support of at least 7,000 cheering fans, the Trojans marched down the field on their first possession and scored on a 38-yard touchdown run by McCoy. With a 7-0 lead, the defense forced a quick punt but the offense was unable to take advantage. After a stop by the Penn defense, senior punter Drew Conrad pinned the Kingsmen at the 11 yard line after an echoing hit by Blake Moran.
After stopping Penn quarterback Camden Bohn on a keeper on 3rd and 2, Penn was forced to punt again as Center Grove dominated the field position battle. A class 6A record-breaking punt return by Will Smithey gave the Trojans the ball in Penn territory.
“It feels great knowing that I was able to contribute to such an amazing team all year and have a positive impact,” Smithey said. “I couldn’t have done it without the blocking, but I hope the record stands for awhile.”
Facing a 4th and 2, Coach Eric Moore threw the Jumbo Package (defensive linemen Cameron Tidd and Jovan Swann) on the line as Connor Steeb, who normally plays defensive back, rushed for a six yard gain. Senior quarterback Joey Siderewicz threw a pass to Triston Clark later in that possession for a touchdown.
Facing a 14-0 deficit, the Kingsmen drove down the field. The Center Grove defense stopped Bohn again on a 3rd and goal, forcing a field goal. The teams entered halftime with CG holding a 14-3 lead.
The Kingsmen offense was dominant in the second half as they led their first drive to a touchdown thrown by Bohn to James Lapalucci. However, a dominant yet balanced rushing game by the Trojans, with Jackson Hohlt, Lee Clinker and McCoy all seeing multiple reps, resulted in another touchdown for McCoy to give CG a 21-10 lead.
The read option of Penn and a precise 3rd down passing game quickly led to another Penn touchdown. This drive contained four 3rd down conversions. However, a critical stop on a two-point conversion kept the Trojan lead to five points, 21-16.
The rushing game of the Trojans proved to be too much for Penn as CG drove down the field, using the run to drain valuable time from the clock and set up McCoy’s third and final touchdown of the game.!The Jumbo Package pushed McCoy across the plane for a 28-16 Center Grove lead. An interception by Tyler Pence clinched the State Championship victory for the Trojans.
“It was awesome not just capping off a final game as a team, but a perfect season as a team,” Pence said. “We knew that if we did our jobs and listened to our coaches, we would win one more game.”
The Trojans had six offensive possessions and scored four touchdowns, giving Moore his second state title. The efficiency of this team’s offense combined with big defensive plays proved a successful recipe, as CG capped a perfect 14-0 season, the first 6A team to ever achieve this.