First-and-23 from its 5-yard line in the defending state champion’s stadium isn’t the most ideal situation for an offense.
It didn’t faze Center Grove, but very little did Friday.
The fourth-ranked Trojans, led by a dominant performance from their offensive line, maintained possession of the Copper Kettle with a convincing 31-10 victory at Class 6A No. 3 Carmel on Friday.
The aforementioned scenario unfolded midway through the third quarter and the Trojans clinging to a 17-10 lead. Freshman back Carson Steele tested the left side and 95 yards later had basically broken the Greyhounds’ backs.
Steele’s third varsity start proved memorable — 27 carries, 239 yards and three touchdowns.
“He’s tremendous,” Center Grove coach Eric Moore said of Steele.
“He’s such a humble kid who runs the football so hard. He’s only 14-years old and probably shouldn’t be playing varsity football, but he’s been waiting for this season since he was in second grade.
“He brings joy to everyone in our football program.”
It started up front with linemen A.J. Wiese, Skyler Spetter, Cory Heinrichs, Justin Tolle, A.J. Snow and Lucas Doyle creating the running lanes. Overall, the Trojans rushed for 363 yards and junior quarterback Jackson Moore passed for 87.
Coach Moore said he and his assistant coaches challenged the offensive line during practice sessions in the days leading up to Friday’s game.
It’s a unit that responded and then some.
Heinrichs, a four-year starter who this season plays right tackle on offense, believes it was the most dominant performance by a Trojans’ offensive line since he’s been on varsity.
“The offensive line did the best job that I’ve been a part of,” he said. “We blocked as well as we could, and our running backs, Carson and Gavin (Matheson), they both ran their butts off.
“We just tried to hit blocks because we know we have athletes in the backfield that can make moves. Coach Moore really wanted us to bring it this year. We love the competition Carmel gives us. They bring the best out in us. Our team just played really well tonight.”
Center Grove cranked out 153 yards rushing in the first half to lead 17-10 at intermission.
The Trojans’ first offensive series lasted 14 plays and made it to the Carmel 12 before calling on junior Luke Eckert to open the scoring with a 29-yard field goal.
Carmel made it only two yards in three plays during the ensuing series, which put the visitors back in business at its own 43. A leaping grab by junior split end Jacob Keith covered 41 yards and set up Steele’s 2-yard touchdown burst through the right side of the line.
The Greyhounds finally got on the board at 6:03 of the second period when quarterback Jake McDonald on third-and-17 found Atticus Clouse open over the middle for a 36-yard scoring strike.
On the next play from scrimmage, Matheson located a crease on the right side and was gone for an 80-yard touchdown run to make the score 17-7.
Senior Conner Coghlan’s 44-yard field goal try with 1:36 remaining before half glanced off the right goalpost and dropped over to cut the lead to seven.
The schedule refuses to lighten up for Center Grove (2-1, 1-1 in the Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference), which returns home Friday night to host top-ranked Ben Davis.