The road to Lucas Oil Stadium goes through Center Grove.
Class 6A top-ranked Warren Central makes a return visit to face defending state champion and third-ranked Center Grove on Friday in a much-anticipated regional showdown. The high-flying Warriors (10-1), averaging 41.2 points and 486 yards per game, will attempt to knock off the Trojans for a second time this season after a 21-16 win in the season opener.
A win would bode well for Warren Central’s state title hopes — in more ways than one. The last four teams to sweep two games from Center Grove (Ben Davis in 2014, Carmel in 2011, Warren Central in 2009 and Warren Central in 2003) went on to win a state championship.
Neither team received much resistance in the sectional. Warren Central pounded Franklin Central (49-17) and Southport (50-20) in Sectional 7, while Center Grove handled Jeffersonville (62-6) and Columbus North (41-14) in Sectional 8.
Prediction: This has all the makings of an epic game. Warren Central has shown the most consistent, explosive offense in 6A this year. Senior quarterback Zach Summeier has a number of weapons to turn to. But Center Grove has a strong defense and an offense that has improved throughout the season. Beating the defending champs at home will be no easy task. Warren Central 28, Center Grove 27.
I was 13-2 last week on predictions to improve to 389-81 (82.8 percent) on the season. Here’s a look at all of the area regional games this week (kickoff is 7 p.m. Friday unless noted):
>> Class 6A: Carmel (7-4) at Homestead (9-2), 7:30 p.m: No. 7 Carmel has won five of its last six and the defense has been playing better in the second half of the season. The Greyhounds have at times been susceptible to the run, which is where Homestead’s offensive thrives. Sophomore Jordan Presley has rushed for 1,658 yards and 24 touchdowns for the Spartans. Jalen Walker became Carmel’s all-time leader in receiving yardage (1,718 yards) this past week. Carmel 31, Homestead 24.
>> Class 6A: Ben Davis (8-3) vs. Cathedral (7-4), at Tech: Can Cathedral hold down a Ben Davis’ offense that has scored fewer than 33 points in a game just once this season? The Giants have three receivers – Zion Blow, Azjai Cooper and Noah Thomas – with at least 33 catches and 400 yards. After back-to-back overtime wins, do the Irish have anything left? Ben Davis 35, Cathedral 31.
>> Class 5A: Kokomo (8-2) at Westfield (9-2): This is a rematch of last year’s regional, won 21-19 by Kokomo. The fifth-ranked Shamrocks look for revenge after controlling this past week’s 34-7 win over McCutcheon with a 317-yard rushing effort. No. 9 Kokomo averages more than 300 rushing yards per game, but will find tougher sledding against a Westfield defense that allows just 15.3 points per game. Westfield 28, Kokomo 14.
>> Class 5A: Columbus East (11-1) at Zionsville (6-5), 7:30 p.m.: Fourth-ranked Columbus East rolled through a difficult sectional as junior Jamon Hogan rushed for 247 yards and four touchdowns in this past week’s 56-31 win over Whiteland. The Olympians average a staggering 342 rushing yards per game behind a big offensive line. Zionsville looks to keep its momentum going from a three-game winning streak. Columbus East 38, Zionsville 27.
>> Class 4A: Delta (8-4) at Roncalli (12-0): After a close call in a 34-33 win over Lebanon, No. 1 Roncalli smashed Greenwood 42-6 this past week. Unranked Delta relies heavily on freshman running back Charlie Spegal. He rushed 40 times for 209 yards and a touchdown in this past week’s 12-6 win over Mt. Vernon. Spegal has 1,906 yards rushing and 17 TDs this season. Roncalli 28, Delta 16.
>> Class 3A: Lawrenceburg (11-1) at Danville (10-2), 7:30 p.m.: Raise your hand if you had Danville coming out of Sectional 29. If there’s an underdog story in this tournament, it’s probably the unranked Warriors. Lawrenceburg, also unranked, averages 447 yards of offense per game. Danville 33, Lawrenceburg 32.
>> Class 2A: Cardinal Ritter (8-4) at Milan (10-2): Ritter’s seven-game winning streak includes wins over Triton Central, Beech Grove, Scecina (twice) and Lapel. That’s a good run. Avery Hall (1,539 rushing yards, 16 TDs) continues to carry the load for the Raiders. Milan’s offense is one of the state’s best. Blane Beck has passed for 3,360 yards and 44 touchdowns Jed Minnich has rushed for 1,130 yards and 22 TDs. Milan 34, Cardinal Ritter 30.
>> Class 2A: Monrovia (8-4) at Evansville Mater Dei (8-4), 8 p.m.: This will be a fun one at the Reitz Bowl and a rematch of last year’s regional, won by Monrovia 40-20. The Bulldogs rolled through their sectional. Mater Dei has only lost to 3A and 4A opponents. Mater Dei has two receivers – Walker Massey and Zac Allen – with more than 700 receiving yards. Monrovia’s Dalton Smith is averaging 14.2 yards per carry. Monrovia 42, Evansville Mater Dei 35.
>> Class A: Fountain Central (11-1) at Lutheran (9-3): Fountain Central avenged its only loss in a big way last week, dominating North Vermillion 54-8. Lutheran’s schedule should have it prepared for this one. Lutheran 28, Fountain Central 27.
Call IndyStar reporter Kyle Neddenriep at (317) 444-6649. Follow him on Twitter: @KyleNeddenriep.
WATCH LIVE ON INDYSTAR.COM
It doesn’t get much better than Friday’s MIC Network Game of the Week, presented by Central Indiana’s Honda Dealers: No. 1 Warren Central vs. No. 3 Center Grove. You can watch the game live on indystar.com or IndyStar’s mobile apps starting at 7 p.m. We’ll also have a live blog with score updates and in-game video highlights from across Central Indiana’s other regional action.