Offensive line again a big part of Center Grove’s success

Every so often, an offensive line takes ownership of a catchy nickname designed to reveal a collective personality of the six players doing the blocking.

The “Bruise Brothers” describes only one-third of those starting in the trenches for top-ranked Center Grove as it prepares for the program’s seventh appearance in a state championship football game.

Best friends Jacob Newlin, the team’s starting center, and Jordan Cox, a fixture at right guard, appreciate the blue-collar handle even though its origins remain a bit uncertain.

“I think toward the end of the summer, someone on Twitter made that for us. I’m OK with the nickname, and thought it was kind of funny,” Newlin said. “Jordan and I have been playing football together since the fifth grade.

“We went to different middle schools, but started playing together again as freshmen.”

Only Newlin and Cox aren’t the only ones doing the bruising for a team riding a 27-game win streak.

The duo has teamed with two more seniors, 6-foot-7, 320-pound right tackle Sam Buras and tight end Shane Bennett along with two juniors, left tackle Charlie Gardner and left guard Austin Wiese, to help the Trojans’ offense gain 350 yards a game.

Center Grove possesses the offensive firepower both on the line and in terms of skill-position players to rack up larger numbers.

However, the team’s dominant defense (10.2 ppg and eight games allowing seven or fewer points) has played a part in the success the Center Grove offense has enjoyed, often setting the latter up to work with a short field.

“(Offensive line) is mixture of great, talented kids and really smart kids and strong kids,” Trojans coach Eric Moore said. “It’s a good mixture of experience. Austin Wiese has been there since his sophomore year, big Sam has had two years and Jordan has had two years.

“Newlin is the new kid on the block, but he’s been awesome this year. He’s really stepped in there at center, and that’s been huge. Our left tackle, Charlie Gardner, he steps in and does a really good job.”

The big offseason mystery, Moore admits, was finding the right person to play tight end.

Enter the 6-4, 245-pound Bennett, a former defensive end who has seamlessly made the switch to the opposite side of the line of scrimmage. Bennett, who’ll switch back to defense once playing for Indiana State, has contributed 11 receptions and paves running lanes on the edge.

“My first thought in football is always, ‘don’t hurt my defense.’ It’s hard to win championships without a great defense,” Moore said. “Shane was a junior (last year) who couldn’t get on the field because he had great guys (Caden Curry and James Schott) in front of him.

“Shane is a really good athlete. A basketball kid. He’s a tough kid with good size, but the one who believed in him was (quarterback TayvenJackson), because Tayven believed he could throw the ball to him, and sold it to everybody.”

Cox and Newlin have known one another since kindergarten. Bennett arrived as a classmate couple of years later and Buras, a former Greenwood Christian student, transferred to Center Grove before the start of his seventh-grade school year.

The seniors took their years of high school game experience, whether junior varsity or varsity, to form the anchor of what is the latest in long line of outstanding fronts for the Trojans.

“We have four returning starters on the O-line, so all of us know our assignments from last year,” said Buras, who has committed to play at Ball State. “We’re older and just understand how stuff works so much better.”

Added Bennett: “I just think we’re all willing to battle for each other. We all know our assignments, and we study film.”

Having not lost a game since a 20-17 defeat to Carmel in the 2019 title game, Center Grove is no threat to flirt with complacency. The possibility of a fourth state championship and a second straight dose of perfection over a single season makes for powerful incentive.

“I don’t think winning ever gets old. It’s fun and exciting. We can’t get bored with winning,” Cox said. “I mean, we still have to block for the running backs and Tayven and take everything in the trenches and just dig out what we can.”

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Mike Beas is the Daily Journal's veteran sports reporter. He has been to more than 200 Indiana high schools, including 1990s visits to Zionsville to profile current Boston Celtics GM Brad Stevens, Gary Roosevelt to play eventual Purdue All-American Glenn Robinson in HORSE (didn’t end well) and Seeger to visit the old gym in which Stephanie White, later the coach of the Indiana Fever, honed her skills in pickup games involving her dad and his friends. He can be reached at [email protected]