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Center Grove cruises to record third straight 6A crown

Lewis Bagley, Special to
Posted: November 25, 2022
IHSAA Class 6A Football State Championship
Photo Credit: Double Edge Media @demllc

The “King” of Class 6A football is alive and well.

Center Grove used its dominating rushing attack and a stifling defense to lead it to a 35-9 win over Carroll of Fort Wayne Friday in the state championship game at Lucas Oil Stadium.

The victory (the 15th straight tournament win for the program) gives coach Eric Moore’s squad its third consecutive state title – in its fourth-straight appearance – which is the most since Class 6A was established in 2013.

“I’m so proud of this team and the guys in red,” Moore said on the field immediately after the victory. “Winning three straight state championships is the hardest feat you can reach. At the start of the year, no one thought we could win, no one thought we could even be here, but these guys fought week-in, week-out.”

IHSAA Class 6A Football State Championship
Photo courtesy Double Edge Media @demllc


The stat sheet reflected Center Grove’s dominance as the Trojans ran up 302 net yards rushing, averaging 5.4 yards per attempt. The Trojans only threw nine passes all night (completing six) in running up 24 first downs and the 35 points.

Much of the Trojan rushing attack followed the lead of the left side of the offensive line, where guard Austin Wiese and tackle Charlie Gardner were stationed.

“We’ve played alongside each other for four years,” Wiese said, “and it takes a lot of work to build the chemistry we have. It’s built-up and built-up each year.”

“They’ve been three-year starters,” Moore pointed out, “and they’re physical, smart and intense. A great offensive line is all about the team and that’s all they think about.

“This is what we do, we’re going to play hard-nosed football,” Moore continued. “We’ll run the ball, score touchdowns and play good, solid defense. The defense really stepped up tonight.”

Stepped up to the tune of allowing only 255 total yards – only 154 yards and three points during the first three quarters. The CG defense harried Carroll quarterback Jimmy Sullivan into quick throws all evening, forcing him to scramble on numerous occasions and sacking him five times.

“They did a great job bringing pressures and forcing (Sullivan) to throw quicker,” Carroll coach Doug Dinan said. “Their coverage was great on top of that. They’ve won three straight state championships for a reason.” 

“They didn’t have time to throw the ball,” Moore added. “Our defense was probably a little quicker than they have seen this year.”

Carroll, making its first appearance in the state title game, claimed the opening kickoff and drove 57 yards in 12 plays, finishing it with a Sebastian Lopez 30-yard field goal.

The Trojans (12-2) came right back with a four-play, 80-yard march to take a 7-3 lead on a 64-yard pass from Tyler Cherry to Jalen Thomeson. The rest of the contest was never in doubt.

Center Grove took a 21-7 lead into halftime on 1-yard TD bursts by Micah Coyle and Owen Bright. Cherry scored on a 1-yard sneak to open the scoring in the second half before a 6-yard score by Eli Hohlt provided the Trojans with their total.

Coyle finished with 132 yards rushing and Thomeson 128 to lead the Trojans. 

Carroll (13-1) broke through in the fourth quarter on a 26-yard pass from Ethan Springer to Camden Herschberger. The two-point conversion failed. Herschberger had six catches for 66 yards.

The CG program can now set its sights on tying an IHSAA record next season with a fourth-straight state championship. Three schools have accomplished that feat: Warren Central in Class 5A (2003-06), Fort Wayne Bishop Luers in 2A (2009-12) and Lafayette Central Catholic in 1A (also 2009-12).

All told, Center Grove has now won five state championships in eight appearances – all under the guidance of Moore.
But, for this day, the Trojans’ thoughts were on this accomplishment.

“It seems surreal right now, it really does” Gardner said of the three-peat. “I’m just so blessed to be part of this program. It’s really special.”

IHSAA Class 6A Football State Championship
Photo courtesy Double Edge Media @demllc


Final Box Score

Class 6A Records


Most Rushing Attempts: 56 by Center Grove vs. Carroll (Fort Wayne), 2022. 

Most Rushing Touchdowns (Tie): 4 by Center Grove vs. Carroll (Fort Wayne), 2022. 

Most First Downs (Tie): 24 by Center Grove vs. Carroll (Fort Wayne), 2022. 

Most First Downs by Rushing: 16 by Center Grove vs. Carroll (Fort Wayne), 2022. 

Most Punt Return Yards: 37 by Center Grove vs. Carroll (Fort Wayne), 2022.




Carroll High School’s Jorge Valdes earns the Phil N. Eskew Mental Attitude Award
During the awards ceremony, Jorge Valdes of Carroll High School in Fort Wayne was announced by the IHSAA Executive Committee as the recipient of the Phil N. Eskew Mental Attitude Award in Class 6A Football.

The award is annually presented to a senior who is nominated by his principal and coach, and has demonstrated excellence in mental attitude, scholarship, leadership, and athletic ability during his four years of high school.

Academically, Valdes excels in the classroom with a 3.8 GPA and is a member of the National Honor Society.

Valdes was named First Team All-Conference and team captain his senior year. Along with his excellence on the football field, Jorge also participates in Track & Field where he competed in the 4x100 at the State Finals. 

Jorge is the son of Jorge Valdes & Cedilia Eguiliz of Fort Wayne, IN. He is undecided on his college decision but plans to study Engineering and continue his football career. 

The award is named in honor of Commissioner Phil N. Eskew, who served as the IHSAA’s third commissioner from 1962-76. Under his leadership, the IHSAA football state tournament was initiated in 1973.

The Indianapolis Colts, the presenting sponsor of the IHSAA state tournament, presented a $1,000 scholarship to Carroll High School’s general scholarship fund in the name of Jorge Valdes.

IHSAA Class 6A Football State Championship
Photo courtesy Double Edge Media @demllc