After a strong regular season that included four 100-yard rushing games, Jalen Thomeson had been relatively quiet for much of the state tournament.
On Friday night, nobody was louder.
The senior, playing primarily at running back this fall after starting on defense a year ago, left his fingerprints all over Center Grove’s 35-9 rout of Fort Wayne Carroll in the Class 6A state championship game. He ran for 128 yards on 20 carries, got the Trojans on the board with a 64-yard touchdown reception in the first quarter and added a 35-yard kickoff return for good measure.
Friday’s breakout performance punctuated Thomeson’s gradual return to form after suffering a late-season ankle injury. He sat out the Trojans’ sectional semifinal win at Franklin Central and carried the ball just seven times for 53 yards the following week at Columbus North. After gaining just 46 yards on 13 carries in a regional victory over Warren Central, the Ohio University recruit had an 85-yard night against Cathedral in last week’s semistate.
In the title game, he was back to being the playmaker he’d been at midseason, when he racked up 430 yards rushing in a three-game stretch against Lawrence Central, Pike and Lawrence North.
“I’ve been in the training room trying to get healthy,” said Thomeson, who will suit up for Ohio University next fall. “I’m not quite at 100%, but I did my best.”
Thomeson had company in the 100-yard club, with teammate Micah Coyle gaining 132 yards on 26 rushes. It’s the fourth time this season that both backs went over the century mark on the same night.
Coyle finishes his senior season ranked seventh in the state for the year with 2,073 yards rushing.
“It feels nice to have somebody I can depend on and I can trust,” Thomeson said of having Coyle as a backfield mate. “Once we get that mojo going, we feel like we’re unstoppable.”
In their last game together, they certainly were.
Last in line
The last of five brothers to suit up for Center Grove, senior Eli Hohlt capped off his family’s long and impressive family football history with another state championship.
To make the night even sweeter, Hohlt got into the end zone in his final high school game. He scored the Trojans’ final points on a 6-yard touchdown run with 16 seconds left in the third quarter.
All four of Hohlt’s older brothers — Jackson, Trevor, Sam and Ty — were in the Lucas Oil Stadium crowd on Friday night.
“It’s an amazing feeling to go out this way,” Eli said. “It really puts a stamp on our last name, and it’s a good feeling to finish out with a state championship.”
Home sweet home
Center Grove has made a habit of finishing its season at Lucas Oil Stadium — Friday marked the Trojans’ fourth straight appearance in the 6A title game and its sixth in the last eight seasons.
Eric Moore has brought the Trojans to eight state finals in all; he has a 5-3 record in those games.
The Trojans wore decals on the back of their helmets Friday night with the number 13 and the message “#owenstrong” on them. The decals were in memory of Owen Scheele, who had been expected to be Fort Wayne Carroll’s quarterback this fall before being diagnosed with leukemia. Scheele died in June at the age of 17.
After the game ended, Center Grove players joined the Carroll team for a prayer in Scheele’s honor.
Odds and ends
The Trojans’ 26-point win rates as the second-biggest blowout ever in a Class 6A final. The largest came in 2017, when Ben Davis steamrolled Penn by a 63-14 count.
No individual state finals records were set, but Center Grove did set five 6A championship game marks. The Trojans had the most rushing attempts (56), most rushing touchdowns (four), most rushing first downs (16) and most punt return yards (37) in a 6A final and tied the record for the most total first downs (24).