The No. 7 Center Grove Trojans knew they would have to find a way to subdue a Harrison offense that came into Saturday’s Class 2A state final match averaging nearly four goals per game.
The Trojans didn’t subdue the eighth-ranked Raiders. They silenced them. The result was a 4-0 win and a 2A state title, Center Grove’s first.
Center Grove first-year coach Jameson McLaughlin, who coached the Trojans’ junior varsity team for nine seasons before replacing Todd Sheely this season, said his team executed the defensive plan to perfection.
“I told my team to control the middle of the field,” McLaughlin said. “(Harrison) likes to be very direct and play long balls over the top. As soon as you see them lining up for one, drop deep.”
Senior goalkeeper Logan Wade had five saves in the first half and two in the second.
“You’ve got to stay focused on your one goal, which is to keep the ball out,” Wade said.
McLaughlin said Wade has been a steadying force all season.
“People see him and he’s not the tallest kid you’re ever going to meet, but his athleticism is unbelievable,” McLaughlin said. “He leads by example, works hard, knows exactly what I want him to do and executes. I couldn’t ask any more of him.”
Stellar Trojans defense was paired with a balanced offense. Hayden Gorall got Center Grove on the board 6 minutes into the game, as he netted a goal off a rebound from 6 yards out.
It was Gorall’s seventh goal of the season and fourth in as many games.
“We knew it’d just take one, and we’d get on top of them and have momentum,” he said.
Nathan Silva gave the Trojans a 2-0 lead 9 minutes later on a penalty kick.
Eight minutes into the second half, Conrad Bomber netted his 21st goal of the season on an assist by Kyle Parry. Roman Johnson completed the scoring with 17 minutes to play, as he scored on Parry’s second assist of the game.
It was a fitting end to a stellar four-year run for the team’s 13 seniors.
“It’s phenomenal for them,” McLaughlin said. “They’ve been to semistate four years in a row and lost. To finally break that jinx and get here and finish it was outstanding.”
Gorall, a senior, was finally able to see his team make it all the way after being cut short time and time again.
“It’s everything,” he said. “We’ve been working all year for this. We feel like we’ve been cut short in semi-state a few years now, so it feels really good to get it this year.”