Second helping: 2016 State Finals

Center Grove’s football team wrote one incredible script in 2015, winning 14 straight games en route to a Class 6A state championship, the second in the program’s history.

The sequel hasn’t been boring — and it could produce the same ending.

The Trojans take the field tonight at Lucas Oil Stadium hoping to topple Carmel and become the first school to win consecutive titles in the state’s largest class since Warren Central won four in a row from 2003 to 2006.

This year’s team isn’t unbeaten, and it has had to overcome more obstacles than the 2015 edition — but it might actually be better. Center Grove outscored its opponents by 266 points (477-201) last fall; the current squad has already run up a spread of 300 points (466-166) heading into this evening’s game.

Center Grove enters the season’s final weekend ranked seventh in the nation by MaxPreps — but reaching that height hasn’t been easy. From the season’s opening week, head coach Eric Moore and his Trojans have been facing challenges.

The Aug. 19 showdown with Warren Central was supposed to be a celebration of Ray Skillman Stadium, the team’s stadium that had grown to 6,000 seats. But not only did the Warriors spoil the party with a 21-16 victory, Center Grove lost its top two returning running backs, Titus McCoy and Trevor Hohlt, to injuries.

“Any time you lose your chief warrior, your team lets down,” Moore said of McCoy. “And that first game, we did, but after that point, I think the kids played for Titus to get him back in the game.”

McCoy battled ankle problems all season long, missing four regular-season games and heading into the sectional round with just 148 yards rushing on 39 carries. He has steadily upped that production since returning in the sectional opener, gaining 314 yards in four postseason games.

Hohlt, who Moore said might “be the unsung hero of the whole outfit,” stepped his game up considerably after returning to the lineup. He’s second on the team in rushing (623 yards, 6 TD) and has emerged as a surprise threat in the passing game, hauling in 12 passes for 193 yards and two scores.

The early-season attrition in the backfield could have been a crippling blow for the Trojans, who have relied heavily on the run in the past — but it may have helped Center Grove’s offense become even more dangerous thanks to a couple of other major developments.

When Russ Yeast arrived in the spring from Ohio, he was a proven commodity attracting interest from some of the most powerful college football programs in the country. But few were ready for the impact that the senior has made — Yeast is the area’s rushing leader with 1,472 yards and he’s caught 27 passes for 554 more, scoring 27 touchdowns overall for the Trojans.

The Louisville commit has also returned kickoffs and punts and even come in on defense in crunch-time situations as a shutdown cornerback. He’s emerged as a leading candidate for Mr. Football.

Still, Moore said the biggest development has been the emergence of Jack Kellams at quarterback. Stuck in a reserve role until his senior season, Kellams threw a critical pick-six in a rough opening game, but he’s come into his own as the season has progressed. The Week 1 interception is the only one he’s thrown, and the 6-foot-3, 210-pounder has added another dimension to the offense with his ability to go deep.

“He’s now throwing footballs that I’ve never seen thrown here at this school,” Moore said. “He has as good an arm as anybody I’ve ever seen. He’s as good an arm as any of these kids going to Clemson or Michigan or anyone else; this is just the only year he’s gotten to play.”

Kellams has been particularly lethal when partnering up with Yeast. The duo connected five times — all for touchdowns — in the regular-season finale against Cathedral, torching the Fighting Irish for 210 yards. Center Grove has 14 touchdowns through the air in all.

“We keep teams leaning, wondering whether we’re going to run or throw or not,” Kellams said. “I think when we run the ball a lot, it definitely opens up our throwing game, and we definitely have the weapons to do well.”

As good as the offense has been, the defense has been just as strong. The Trojans have been anchored by the veteran linebacker trio of Sam Bolin, Bailey Bennett and Nick Arbuckle as well as safeties Logan Bontrager and Corbin Laque, but Moore also credits the other defensive players who have excelled despite coming into the season with little meaningful varsity experience.

“The guys on our defensive line,” the coach said. “Parker Ferguson, Seth Ferrando. They’ve had to play big roles as seniors with no experience, but they’ve done a great job.”

Center Grove has also gotten an unexpected lift from a special teams unit that has sophomores in four key spots — kicker, punter, holder and long snapper.

During the course of an arduous regular-season schedule, it all came together.

The Trojans are the No. 1 team in Indiana according to the Sagarin ratings, and own wins over the five teams ranked directly below them (Warren Central, Ben Davis, Carmel, Cathedral and Lawrence Central) in Class 6A, as well as No. 8 Columbus North and No. 9 Lawrence North.

In the postseason, with McCoy back in the fold and the team finally at full strength, Center Grove has been at its best, outscoring its four playoff opponents by a 173-49 margin.

The same Warren Central team that spoiled opening night had no chance against the Trojans in the rematch two weeks ago. Offensively and defensively, Center Grove seems to have reached another level.

“We’re pretty dangerous right now,” McCoy said. “I feel like over each week, we get better and better. We’re on a roll right now, and we try to keep it like that.”

Whether the Trojans come out of tonight’s finale with a repeat championship or not, it’s clear to Moore that his players gave their best. They want this championship just as badly as they wanted the last one, and they’ve been grinding harder than ever.

“I’m just real proud of the kids just not showing up this year, ‘Oh, we’ve already got a ring. We don’t need another one,’” Moore said. “Instead — ‘Yeah, let’s go back and give everything we’ve got to get something else.’

“So I’m just real proud of the way they came in this year, not accepting the fact that they’ve already been here.”

Being here once wasn’t good enough. A day after Thanksgiving, Center Grove is back for seconds.

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Getting to the top is hard. Staying there is harder. A Center Grove victory tonight would make the program the first to win consecutive Class 6A state championships and the first to repeat in the state’s largest class since 2006, when there were five classes.

A list of the large-school champions to go back-to-back since 1973, when the IHSAA football playoffs began with three classes:

Carmel;1980, 1981 (3A)

Warren Central;1984 (4A), 1985 (5A); 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 (5A)

Ben Davis;1987, 1988 (5A); 1990, 1991 (5A); 2001, 2002 (5A)

Penn;1995, 1996, 1997 (5A)

The last repeat champion regardless of class was Cathedral, which won three straight 4A titles (2010-12) and then moved up to win two more in 5A (2013-14).


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Are you ready for some football? There’s plenty of it this weekend at Lucas Oil Stadium, where six state championship games will be played.

A look at the schedule for today and Saturday:


»Class 2A State Championship, noon

Eastbrook (13-1) vs. Indianapolis Ritter (10-4)

»Class 4A State Championship, 3:30 p.m.

Roncalli (14-0) vs. NorthWood (14-0)

»Class 6A State Championship, 7 p.m.

Center Grove (12-1) vs. Carmel (9-4)


»Class A State Championship, noon

Pioneer (14-0) vs. Linton-Stockton (14-0)

»Class 3A State Championship, 3:30 p.m.

Fort Wayne Concordia (12-2) vs. Lawrenceburg (13-1)

»Class 5A State Championship, 7 p.m.

Columbus East (13-1) vs. Westfield (11-2)


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We are covering every angle as the Roncalli Rebels and Center Grove Trojans aim for a state title. Before, during and after the games, we will be publishing on all our digital platforms, keeping you up-to-date with photos, scores and tidbits about the atmosphere in Lucas Oil Stadium, especially the unbridled enthusiasm of the fans. So make sure to follow us on and engage with us at:

Facebook: <a href=""></a>

Twitter: @dailyjournalnet


Get in on the action by posting your own photos and giving us your best tweets on our social media sites. Center Grove is using #anotherone.

Get Saturday’s newspaper for extensive photos and coverage.


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<p style="text-align: center"><strong>Class 6A state football championship</strong></p>
<p style="text-align: center"><strong>Center Grove (12-1) vs. Carmel (9-4)</strong></p>
<strong>When:</strong> 7 p.m. today

<strong>Where:</strong> Lucas Oil Stadium, 500 S. Capitol Ave., Indianapolis

<strong>Tickets:</strong> $15 for today’s games (preschool children free). All seats are general admission.

Single-day tickets may be purchased at the Center Grove High School athletics office between 8 a.m. and noon today.

Center Grove will receive $1 for every ticket purchased at the school.

Tickets also will be available game day at the Lucas Oil Stadium ticket office, located on the southeast side of the venue at street level nearest Capitol Avenue. Online ticket orders can be placed at <a href=""></a>

<strong>Gates Open:</strong> 11 a.m. (one hour prior to kickoff of the day’s first game).

<strong>Television:</strong> The Class 6A games will be broadcast on Fox Sports Indiana Plus, an alternate channel, due to overlap with the Indiana Pacers broadcast that evening.

<strong>Webstream:</strong> For viewers outside of the Fox Sports Indiana coverage area, a live stream will be available at For those within the FSI coverage area, the stream will be available only on delayed basis following the conclusion of the telecast.

<strong>Radio:</strong> Each game will be broadcast on affiliates of the IHSAA Champions Network.