GREENWOOD — Michael Tutsie grew up dreaming of making plays like this one.
When Center Grove quarterback Jack Kellams rolled out to his right on the first play of the fourth quarter on Friday night, Tutsie rolled over from his safety position and stepped in front of running back Triston Clark.
Tutsie, who as a kid rooted for the Warren Central juggernaut teams coached by his father Steve, picked off the pass and was off to the races. Up the left sideline for 62 yards. Touchdown.
Tutsie’s broke the gridlock and sparked visiting Class 6A No. 5 Warren Central to a 21-16 win over top-ranked and defending state champion Center Grove.
“I read my keys and saw the fullback come out,” Tutsie said. “I rallied to it. I envisioned myself making that play all week.”
Warren Central celebrates big win at No. 1 Center Grove. pic.twitter.com/nDRd3FELrf— Kyle Neddenriep (@KyleNeddenriep) August 20, 2016
He’s actually envisioned it a lot longer than that.
Tutsie wears No. 9 because of Jerimy Finch, a playmaking safety on those Warren Central teams of last decade. Steve Tutsie was a defensive coordinator under Kevin Wright as the Warriors won three Class 5A titles from 2003 to ’05, then led the program a fourth consecutive title as the head coach in 2006. The elder Tutsie had another stint as defensive coordinator at the school and head coach in 2012, then moved over to Lawrence Central as an assistant. Michael played for the Bears until transferring to Warren Central for his senior season.
Safe to say, he feels at home.
“It feels so good to be in that black and gold,” Tutsie said. “That’s what I’ve wanted all my life. The situation changed. But I’m so glad to be back. I love it.”
Tutsie’s play put Warren Central ahead, 21-14. The Warriors, who lost in the regular season and in the regional to Center Grove last season, had to survive a safety with 2:34 left. The Trojans took over near midfield for a potential game-winning drive but could only get to the Warren Central 33 before turning it over on downs.
“A lot of things happened for a first game,” Center Grove coach Eric Moore said. “(Tutsie) made a great play. That’s how you win.”
Of bigger concern for Moore than a season-opening loss was an injury to senior running back Titus McCoy, a potential frontrunner for IndyStar Mr. Football. McCoy, who rushed for more than 1,900 yards last year, was injured on Center Grove’s second drive of the game. After an 8-yard run, the senior running back was helped off the field with an injury to his right ankle.
Later in the first half, McCoy was taped up and it appeared he might re-enter the game. But before halftime, he’d taken off his shoulder pads and jersey and was watching the game on crutches with a towel draped over his head. It was an agonizing sight for Moore and Center Grove players.
McCoy asked to come back in the game but that idea was nixed.
“He’s your warrior,” Moore said. “He’s had three years as a player and never missed a down. It really hurt the mojo of our kids tonight. You don’t want anybody to get hurt, but especially somebody who works so hard at it.”
Warren Central’s offense looked sharp throughout, but was hurt by costly penalties and a pair of fumbles. Zach Summeier, the second-year starter at quarterback, was 26-for-36 passing for 258 yards and two touchdowns. He also rushed for 56 yards.
“He’s really, really good,” Warren Central coach Jayson West said. “We used him a lot tonight.”
Center Grove led 14-7 at halftime despite Warren Central’s advantage in every statistical category. Russ Yeast, a senior transfer from Ohio, put the Trojans ahead 14-7 with an 84-yard touchdown run in the second quarter.
Warren Central tied it 14-14 on its first possession of the second half when Summeier hit David Bell for a 3-yard TD pass on third and goal.
West and Summeier both had high praise for McCoy, who has been a staple of Center Grove’s offense since his freshman season.
“It makes me sick,” West said of seeing McCoy leave the game. “He’s one of the greatest players I’ve had the pleasure of coaching against. He’s a class act. He’s one of the best players in the history of Indiana high school football. He led that team last year. I just told him bad things happen to good people because they can handle it and they can lead by example. I hope they get him back soon. I want to play against the best.”
Call IndyStar reporter Kyle Neddenriep at (317) 444-6649.
See game-action video Saturday
“IndyStar’s Friday Night Lights Recap” will post overnight on Fridays and be ready for you when you wake up Saturday. Our recap show will feature video highlights from as many as 10 area games, as well as a breakdown from Insider Kyle Neddenriep on the Game of the Week — Warren Central vs. Center Grove this week. Find it at IndyStar.com.