Center Grove boys soccer loses to North Central

For the Daily Journal

The Center Grove boys soccer team was eager to find out how it measured against the top-ranked team in the state, Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference rival North Central.

Class 3A No. 12 Center Grove has some work to do.

Four first-half goals propelled the unbeaten Panthers as they romped to a 5-0 win against the host Trojans on Thursday evening.

Prior to the game, Center Grove recognized longtime North Central coach Jerry Little for his accomplishments.

Little, who is retiring after coaching North Central for 37 years, has won seven state titles. He will be missed by the Panthers, but probably not by Center Grove after this game.

But if not for a miss within the first five minutes of play, the Trojans might have written a different ending.

Senior Aaron McDaniel slipped inside the North Central defense and had a one-on-one with Panther goalie John Biederstedt.

McDaniel took a shot, but the ball sailed over the net and with it an opportunity. Center Grove coach Jameson McLaughlin was sure of it.

“One hundred percent. Anytime you’re the team that scores first it could change the complexion of the game,” McLaughlin said. “You get up on North Central, you’re going to feel better about yourself, and once you feel better about yourself the game can obviously turn a different way.”

Instead, it was the Panthers who got up thanks to their senior-laden lineup, led by Josemir Gomez.

Twice Gomez beat Center Grove goalie Caiden Stoneburner, the first time in the ninth minute of the game, when Gomez pretty much dribbled in untouched and put it in the net.

For a while Stoneburner kept the Trojans in the game, stopping several North Central shots in the first half before giving way to another goal, this one from Carson Feeney on an assist from Ethan Nault.

A minute later Gomez scored his second to really take the Trojans out of it.

Two more goals, one in the waning minutes of the first half by Say Soe (assisted by the ubiquitous Gomez) and the other in the opening minute of the second half by Cole Little, allowed the Panthers to stay on their average of more than five goals a game.

“(Stoneburner) was under duress for a little bit,” said McLaughlin. “He played well. He had a barrage of shots and he stood up to it.”

Center Grove did get some shots on goal, but none really challenged Biederstedt. Not like that first chance.

The loss all but killed any chance the Trojans (2-3-2, 0-2) had at a MIC title. North Central (5-0, 3-0) looked unbeatable and worthy of its ranking.

“I wouldn’t go that far,” said Little, who hinted the Panthers could be better. “We have periods where we play very well, but what I’m looking for is consistency. And we have a couple of injuries, and when they come back we’ll be pretty solid.”

Despite the setback, Center Grove learned something.

“Effort matters,” McLaughlin said. “If you don’t work at the same rate as (North Central) you’re never going to win.”

Center Grove’s next match is next Tuesday at home against another MIC rival, Warren Central.