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Lawrence Central defeats Center Grove, punches ticket to state
November 18, 2012VYPE MAGAZINE - Central Indiana
By James Howell
For VYPE Magazine (Central Indiana)
The top-ranked Lawrence Central Bears continued their undefeated season this past Friday night with a 28-15 victory over the sixth-ranked Center Grove Trojans at Ray Skillman Stadium on the campus of Center Grove High School.
The Bears came into the game in search of their second semistate championship in school history. They captured their first in 2010. The Trojans entered the game in the hunt for their third semistate title in school history.
Both schools have become well known over the past handful of years as state title contenders with Center Grove winning the Class 5A state championship in 2008 and making it to their second consecutive semistate appearance. Last year, they lost to eventual state champion Carmel.
In 2010, the Bears made the trip to state behind Mr. Football Tre Roberson.
With each of the two schools knowing the stakes, they came out with one goal in mind and that was to win.
The Bears were able to put points on the board first Friday night with a rushing touchdown and held on late to win 28-15.
As both teams began to find comfort in their own games the defenses stood strong.
Each defense forced turnovers from the opposing offenses in the form of fumbles. With Center Grove stepping up on defense, Lawrence Central responded and jumped out to a larger lead.
With yet another quick strike on the ground, senior Alex Rodriguez trotted into the end zone for the second time making the score 21-0 midway through the second quarter.
Before halftime the Trojans were able to chip away at the deficit with a field goal 21-3.
Each defense would come out strong in the second half. Center Grove allowed one score (a 53-yard touchdown run by LC quarterback Drake Christen) and the Bears would only allow two touchdowns.
Maintaining a 28-15 lead with 10:26 remaining, the Lawrence Central took the field needing to hold onto the ball to kill any chance of a Center Grove comeback. They would put together a 14-play drive taking up 8:25 of the clock – but didn’t score.
“That was the game,” Lawrence Central head coach Jayson West said.
“That was huge for us,” senior quarterback Drake Christen added. “We knew we needed to keep the clock moving … short gains, staying in bounds and keeping two hands on it.”
With only 2:01 to work with, Center Grove head coach Eric Moore sent his guys out in search of a quick score to stay alive. After a long return to the Bear 33-yard line, the offense worked their way down inside the red zone before a goal line pass was intercepted.
The Bears held on to win following a big first half to clinch a state championship game berth despite a strong second half by Center Grove.
“We just self-destructed a little bit in the first half,” Coach Moore said.
“You have to go all four (quarters) if you want to win,” Center Grove senior back Connor Stapleton said.
The Trojans were able to accumulate 317 yards on offense but numerous red zone opportunities would come up short. Two red zone interceptions and one key 14-yard sack were among the missed opportunities.
The Bears will now set their sights on Lucas Oil Stadium where they will play Fort Wayne Snider in search of their first state championship. The Bears still remember their last trip which was just a short two years ago against Fishers.
“(The trip) it is different. There was more of a shock the world moment to where now it is more of an expectation,” Coach West said. “I think that’ll help us.”
Though the expectation for the Bears was a state championship from the first day, they entered the 2012 season ranked tenth. They used that as motivation from week to week.
“It put a chip on our shoulder,” Christen said.
With their second state finals appearance in three short years a reality, the credit of the program’s success is routinely steered toward coach West.
“Coach West has done a great job with this program” Christen said. “We all love him to death.”
Coach Moore added, “Jason used to work for me and I am so happy for him. You won’t meet a nicer kid.” Moore then quickly corrected himself by saying “young man”.
Following the game the Bears celebrated by crowding around coach West and treating him to a Gatorade bath. They then huddled and broke on three with one word – “State.”