Though their offenses aren’t exactly the same, the offensive philosophies of Center Grove and Monrovia at least come from the same branch.
Center Grove’s Eric Moore has utilized the wing-T offense for the entirety of his 17 years at Center Grove. The Trojans learn it all the way down the youth level in the second grade.
“It’s an all-ages, all-weather offense for any kind of athlete,” Moore said Monday at the high school football state finals media day at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Monrovia’s offense is even more unique. Coach Kevin Hutchins said it’s a derivative of the T-offense (called the “belly series”) he learned from former Howe and Arlington coach Dick Harpold.
“We’re the only team I’ve ever seen run it,” Hutchins said.
In an era of spread offenses, others might take note. Monrovia (13-1) needs 88 yards in the Class 2A state championship against Whiting (noon, Saturday at Lucas Oil Stadium) to eclipse the state rushing record for yards in a season set by New Prairie (6,082) last year.
Class 6A No. 1 Center Grove (13-0), meanwhile, is averaging 308 rushing yards per game against the state’s seventh-toughest schedule heading into the state championship against Penn (12-1) on Saturday night.
When Hutchins arrived at Howe as a 24-year-old head coach in 2002, he planned on installing a spread offense. But under Harpold’s guidance, he changed his mind.
“I found it’s much easier to replicate success doing what we do than expecting to have so many good elements in order throw the ball well,” said Hutchins, who led Monrovia to its first state finals appearance in 2009. “I can always find a guy to carry the ball well. I can’t always find a great quarterback, a guy to catch the ball and an athletic offensive line to pass block. I can find some kids to run block, who are hard-nosed and can run the ball, especially at a school our size.”
Moore shares the same philosophy, even if some of the details are different.
“It’s a system,” Moore said. “Guys that run system offenses, you plug guys in. People complain, ‘Hey, they’ve run that offense since second grade.’ But it’s a system offense. Those other offenses are great, but if you don’t have that particular player, it’s tough. Where in my offense, I can plug in a smaller lineman or bigger lineman. If I have a great quarterback, he can run it.”
Moore said it’s helped his team that the trend in recent years – filtering from college to high school – is for teams to spread the field and throw the ball.
“That’s been a tremendous positive for our success,” Moore said. “You have to be physical with us from the first quarter to the fourth quarter. A lot of times guys make great plays on us in the first quarter. Are they making those same plays in the fourth quarter? You’ve had to tackle us 50 or 60 times. In some games, you just shove a guy out of bounds 20 times after he catches the ball. You pretty much have to tackle us every play. I think it wears on a defense.”
Familiarity in the finals
East Central coach Justin Roden (Class 4A) and New Palestine coach Kyle Ralph (5A) were on the same staff at Oak Hills (Ohio) in 2008. Roden was a college assistant for two years before coming to East Central in 2011. Ralph coached at Oak Hills for three years and Withrow (Ohio) for two before he was hired at New Pal in 2013.
“It’s kind of a small world,” Ralph said. “(Roden) was a very experienced coach and I was just starting out. Oak Hills was my first job on a varsity staff. Justin was an intense and very talented defensive coordinator. He would bounce some stuff off me. When a guy like that was valuing my opinion on stuff, it gave me confidence as a coach.”
Replaying the moment
Center Grove’s Moore was asked again about the decision to go for the 2-point conversion at the end of the second overtime in a 35-34 win over Avon in the semistate. Avon quarterback Brandon Peters scored on a quarterback sneak in Avon’s possession in the second overtime but needed assistance to leave the field.
Once Moore saw Peters with his helmet on, preparing for a third overtime, his mind was made up.
“I had some coaches telling, ‘No!’ and some yelling, ‘Go!’” Moore said. “But the big thing was, did Superman have his cape on or not. When (Peters) put his helmet on and was ready to play, I wanted to end it right there.”
Lafayette Central Catholic (14-0) will play Linton-Stockton (13-1) at noon, Friday in the Class A finals, followed by the 3A game between West Lafayette (13-1) at Bishop Chatard (11-3) at 3:30 p.m. The 5A nightcap is between Fort Wayne Snider (12-1) and New Palestine (13-0). Saturday begins with the 2A game between Whiting (13-1) and Monrovia (13-1) at noon, followed by Fort Wayne Bishop Dwenger (13-1) and East Central (12-2) in 4A at 3:30 p.m. and Penn (12-1) vs. Center Grove (13-0) in 6A at 7:05 p.m.
The Class A, 2A, 3A, 4A and 6A games will air on Fox Sports Indiana. The 5A game will air on Fox Sports Indiana Plus, an alternate channel, due to an overlap with the Pacers’ broadcast.
Gates at Lucas Oil Stadium will open at 11 a.m. on Friday and Saturday. Fans are encouraged to allow time for security check. Tickets are $15 per day.
Call Star reporter Kyle Neddenriep at (317) 444-6649. Follow him on Twitter: @KyleNeddenriep.