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Kicking Off a Championship by Patrick McGill Everyone knows the story. The Center Grove Trojan football team went into Saturday night’s state championship game against third ranked Carmel as the No. 1 team in the state and everyone expected a nail biter. After an incomplete fourth down pass from senior quarterback Jordan Luallen to junior wide receiver Garrett Mack with 10:47 remaining in the game and CG trailing 33-14, it looked like we were about to witness Carmel’s second state championship in as many years. The Trojans had other ideas. Ten minutes, two onside kicks, and 22 points later, the state championship trophy changed hands and Center Grove had avenged an early season, last-second loss. No matter what anyone says before the game, playing in a state championship forces a completely different mindset. This was evident in the Trojans first possession, as they went three and out for the first time on an opening drive all year. Carmel then proceeded to further take the wind out of the already deflating sails of the Trojans with an 11 play, 71 yard drive to take a 7-0 lead halfway through the first quarter. It did not take long for CG to respond. On the second snap of the ensuing drive, Tanner Riley caught a 49 yard pass from Luallen, which eventually set up a two yard touchdown run by Luallen, making the score at the end of the first quarter 7-7. Morgan Newton and the Carmel offense though, proved it would not be stopped, driving 58 yards in 2:25 capped off by a Kurt Freytag one yard touchdown run to take the
lead 14-7 with 11:11 left in the first half. Mike Wood was forced to punt on the Trojans’ next possession after a big loss on a second down sack proved too much to overcome on third down. The punt sailed through the end zone for a touchback, setting up the Carmel offense at their own 20 yard line. Morgan Newton took over from there, leading an 80 yard touchdown drive aided by a questionable third down pass interference penalty advancing the Greyhounds to their own 46 yard line. On the fourth play of the drive Newton scampered 54 yards to the end zone to extend Carmel’s lead to 21-14. The Center Grove offense remained somewhat ineffective, gaining 29 yards and 2 first downs before another Wood punt for a touchback. A holding penalty on the punt forced the Carmel offense to start from their own 10 yard line. Three plays later Kevin Jones intercepted a Newton pass on the Carmel 33 yard line. The interception set up Tanner Riley, following Trey Thompson, down the left sideline for a 23 yard touchdown run to close the gap to 21-14 going to halftime. The third quarter was all Carmel. The Greyhounds produced scoring drives of 78 and 30 yards, scoring on a Newton 14 yard run and a Nick Logan 19 yard run, while taking 6:45 off of the clock. It didn’t seem like a big deal at the time, but Jordan Babcock hit the upright on the extra point after the first touchdown of the half, forcing Carmel to go for a two-point conversion on the next touchdown, which they missed. The Carmel defense also held the Trojan offense scoreless for the quarter.
They forced another Wood punt on CG’s first possession of the half and held on a fourth down from the eleven early in the fourth quarter. With 10:47 left to play, the score was 33-14 Carmel, and the outlook was bleak for the Trojans. Carmel had not punted at this point, but for the first time all night the Center Grove defense forced a three and out. After Riley’s 7 yard return and a ten yard illegal block penalty, the Trojans began a drive that seemed like nothing more than a formality at their own 42 with 8:18 left to play. The rest his history. Nine plays, 58 yards, and 2:14 later, the score was 3321 after a five yard Luallen touchdown run, his second of the game. The ensuing Wood onside kick was recovered by Center Grove’s Mack on a remarkable kick and catch. Luallen put on a passing clinic on the next drive, which went 49 yards and was capped by an amazing catch over a defender by Wood on 4th down and goal from the two yard line. Another Wood onside kick was recovered by Riley at the CG 42 with 3:07 remaining in the game. The Trojan offense pieced together a masterful 9 play 58 yard drive. Luke Swift ran in the go-ahead score from the five yard line and caught the pass from Luallen on the two point conversion to give Center Grove a 36-33 lead, its first of the game. Not only did the Trojans succeed in scoring on their final drive, they succeeded in leaving Morgan Newton and the high-powered Carmel offense only 50 seconds to operate. The game ended as junior cornerback Scotty O’Brien batted down a last second heave by Newton and the celebration began.
Elias had 4 solo tackles and assisted on 2 others, including one tackle for a loss. Elias recorded one quarterback hurry and one pass break-up. Ellias was also instrumental in the Trojans recovering the on-side kicks.
The state championship win over Carmel wasn’t senior running back Luke Swift’s best night of the season on the stat sheet. It was hard to be disappointed, though. As if winning the championship against MIC rival Carmel wasn’t enough, Swift was awarded one of the most prestigious awards in Indiana high school football. Immediately after the Center Grove Trojans rallied to a win over the Greyhounds by scoring 22 unanswered fourth quarter points, the IHSAA named Swift recipient of the Phil N. Eskew Mental Attitude Award. “I feel privileged that I was even nominated,” Swift said. “And the fact that I won it means a lot.” The award is given each year to a senior to recognize mental attitude, athletic ability, scholarship and leadership. Swift played fullback and kick returner for the Trojans this season. He rushed for 73 yards against Carmel at the championship game, totaling more than 1900 yards and 23 touchdowns on the season. Swift also scored the game-winning touchdown and caught the following twopoint conversion pass to put the Trojans ahead 36-33, ensuring a Carmel field goal wouldn’t win the game. His contributions made for the largest comeback in state finals history. He was nominated for the mental attitude award by Coach Eric Moore, which includes a $1000 scholarship to the school in Swift’s name. “It’s one of the greatest moments of my life,” Swift said about winning the Mental Attitude Award and state championship. Swift earned All-MIC and All-County honors this season. In addition to football, he is a member of the track team, participates in community service and maintains a 3.5 GPA. Swift is undecided on college, but would like to pursue a degree in sports medicine. He is considering Purdue, Iowa, Western Kentucky and Georgia Tech.
Jones intercepted Carmel quarterback Morgan Newton at the Greyhound 33-yard line. Jones’s interception set up a CG touchdown to end the first half. Jones also had three tackles.
by Michael Kubancsek
Riley rushed for 65 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries. He caught 4 passes for 87 yards. Riley recovered the second on-side kick, setting up the Trojans game-winning drive.
Luallen led the Trojans to three touchdown drives in the last six minutes. He completed 13 of 20 passes for 167 yards and a touchdown. Luallen also rushed for two touchdowns.
Luke Swift wins mental attitude award
Players of the Game
Sissom had 7 solo tackles and assisted on 4 others, bringing his tackle total to 11, including 1 tackle for a loss.
Wood caught 3 passes for 29 yards, including the touchdown to bring CG within five. Wood also successfully executed two on-side kicks and punted four times, averaging 49 yards a punt.
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Photo by Robert Reichle
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How They Did It
A play-by-play of the Trojans 22 unanswered fourth quarter points by Michael Kubancsek
t started with Carmel up 33-14. Headed into the fourth quarter, CG failed to convert on a fourth-and-7 after a drive that had brought them to the Carmel 11 yard line. After the turnover on downs, Carmel went three-and-out and punted. Tanner Riley received the punt and after a penalty, the Trojans started a drive from their own 42 with 8:18 in regulation. Then the magic began...
Champions Excerpts from quarterback Jordan Luallen’s daily blog on The Trojaneer website: Nov. 24: “Looking Back on the Weekend” “Friday night was an exciting night for everyone, but especially our senior class…. Our parents always told us that we could make it to the state championship… He [Coach Moore] is a big reason for our passion and togetherness. We could not have done it without him… This week is going to be bittersweet.” Nov. 25: “Final Practice on our Home Field” “Yesterday was a pretty emotional day for everyone; it was our last time as Trojan football players on our home field… at the end of practice Coach Moore had us walk the field and think about all the great moments we have experienced there together… I can still remember my first touchdown there in the opening home game of my freshman year… Practice was great, and everyone really executed well… Today we travel down to Indiana University to practice in their indoor facility.” Nov. 27 (Thanksgiving)- “Giving Thanks” “Yesterday was great-it was our last day of school before break and our last practice ever in full pads… We had a really good practice though and everyone is feeling great… It is remarkable how many tickets we have sold for the game… Today was another great day...At the end of practice we gathered in a circle and said everything we were thankful for.” Dec. 1- “Nine Years in the Making” “This weekend was a blur... Looking back, there should have been no way that we should have won that game… we found a way when it seemed impossible... Those who loved us and cared stayed and watched history… I appreciate all those who stayed and cheered until the end… Those last 6 minutes were surreal... Saturday night, WE ACHIEVED IT.”
Read the entire blog at www.centergrove.k12.in.us/cghs/trojaneer
1. Riley, Luke Swift, and Kevin Jones rushed for short yards to give the Trojans a first down. Then Jordan Luallen connected with Riley and Mike Wood on 16- and 14- yard passes to take CG to the Carmel 15. 2. A 7-yard pass to Matt Adams and a 3-yard run by Jones brought another first down. From the Carmel 5, Luallen drug a pack of Greyhounds into the end zone. After Wood’s PAT, the score was 33-21, Carmel still leading, with 6:04 to play.
CG 21, Carmel 33
3. Carmel took a timeout after seeing the Trojans setup for an onside kick. Junior Garret Mack recovered the onside kick at the Carmel 48. Carmel burned another timeout with 6:04 to play. 4. Luallen rushed 10 yards and completed a 3-yard pass to Riley before being sacked for an 8-yard loss. 5. After 19- and 15- yard passes to Riley and Mack, the Trojans set up first-and-goal at the Carmel 9. After short runs by Riley, Jones, and Luallen, CG took a timeout with 3:18 to play. 6. Back on the field, Luallen found Wood with a mismatched defender at the back of the end zone and put the ball right above his head. Wood then kicked the PAT and brought the score to 33-28.
CG 28, Carmel 33
7. With 3:07 to play, Riley recovered a second onside kick at the Trojan 42 after the ball bounced off a Greyhound. 8. The next drive took just 2:17 as the Trojans went 58 yards for eight points. A 7-yard pass to Jones, an 11-yard rush by Luallen, a 13-yard pass to Wood, another 9-yard rush by Luallen, two rushes by Swift for 10 yards and a 3-yard pass to Adams set CG up on the Carmel 5 yard line. 9. On third-and-3, Swift rushed for 5 yards and a touchdown. On the two-point conversion attempt, Luallen found Swift in the back of the end zone and he hauled it in to give CG the lead, 36-33.
CG 36, Carmel 33
Wood’s kickoff landed in the end zone and Carmel got the touchback with 50 seconds left on the clock. But the Greyhounds couldn’t move the ball any farther than their own 31 before time expired.
Devin Jacquin and Tyler Emberton
Tanner Riley and Jon Rifkind
Derek Dallas Jordan Luallen and Derek Dallas
Kevin Jones and Ruben Deluna
Luke Swift and Jordan Luallen
All photos in this issue courtesy of Jeanette Wall and Robert Reichle. Thanks to the IHSAA for field photography passes at the championship game.