Center Grove’s motto all season has been “One More.”
Now, there is literally one more for the top-ranked Trojans, who face No. 3 Penn in the Class 6A high school football state finals Saturday night at Lucas Oil Stadium.
“One more” also applies to Center Grove running back Titus McCoy, a 5-10, 185-pound junior who always seems to break more tackle or churn for one more yard. That was never more apparent than the game-tying fourth-quarter drive in what turned out to be a 35-34 double-overtime semistate win over Avon.
“Titus is the most upbeat, positive, compassionate young man,” Center Grove coach Eric Moore said. “I’d probably have to go back to my Florida days to find someone who loves football as much as him. He eats and sleeps it.”
With Center Grove on the verge of a state title, it’s hard to imagine McCoy wouldn’t be among the frontrunners for next year’s IndyStar Indiana Mr. Football. After rushing for 926 yards and nine touchdowns as a sophomore, McCoy has rushed for 1,720 yards and 25 touchdowns this season and also leads the ground-based Trojans with 22 receptions for 232 yards.
“You always know you’re going to get his best,” Moore said.
In the tournament, Center Grove (13-0) has moved standout senior defensive lineman Jovan Swann and Cameron Tidd to the offensive side when necessary. That combination, with McCoy or speedy senior Jackson Hohlt (985 yards, 11 TDs) running behind them, has been difficult for opponents to stop.
Center Grove averages 308 yards rushing per game against one of the state’s toughest schedules. It’s the second-, third- and fourth-effort runs that McCoy has made routine that worries Penn coach Cory Yeoman.
“You’ve got to be able to tackle those running backs,” said Yeoman, who is attempting to lead Penn to a state title for the first time in his 13 years as coach. “You better keep the ballcarrier inside and in front of you if you’re going to have a chance.”
Penn (12-1) has a better team that it did four years ago in its most-recent state finals appearance, which resulted in a 54-0 loss to Carmel. Don’t expect a repeat of that mismatch. Penn, which won five state titles between 1983 and 2000, haa Division I talent with players like mammoth senior offensive lineman Ben Knutson (Virginia) and quarterback Camden Bohn (Harvard).
Bohn in particular is of concern for the Trojans with his ability to throw and run. The 6-5, 225-pound senior has passed for 1,268 yards and 13 touchdowns and rushed for a team-high 1,209 yards and 24 TDs.
“It’s like déjà vu or ‘Groundhog Day,’” Moore said of Bohn. “Another great quarterback. Look at the quarterbacks we play. Our defensive coordinator (Chad Daniels) wants to get one more week out these guys before they quit.”
Center Grove has waited too long for anybody to quit now. Since its dramatic 36-33 fourth-quarter comeback win over Carmel in the 2008 Class 5A state championship, Center Grove had been 0-5 in semistate appearances until ending that streak against Avon.
“That (Carmel game) had to be one of the best games I’ve ever been a part of,” Moore said. “Avon was a great football game but it wasn’t for the state championship. That one was in 2008. There are some similarities this year with that team. It’s a senior-led team and they’ve won some tough games along the way. They haven’t had time to celebrate.”
The task now for the Trojans is pretty straightforward — one more.
Call Star reporter Kyle Neddenriep at (317) 444-6649.