Center Grove and Carroll (Fort Wayne) meet for the first time on the football field Friday night at the Class 6A State Championship at Lucas Oil Stadium.
“They are the benchmark,” Carroll coach Doug Dinan said of Center Grove, which will seek to become the first Class 6A program to win three consecutive state championships. “So next year we reached out to some of these schools to play these benchmark programs.”
For fans of Indianapolis-area 6A programs, Friday’s game could be an introduction to a Carroll program that had previously failed to make it past the regional round. But that will change next year. Carroll’s conference, the Summit Athletic Conference, will be split into two five-team divisions, allowing these Fort Wayne schools to compete against two non-conference opponents.
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Carroll, Dinan said, will begin a four-year deal with Center Grove beginning in 2024. These schools will play in week 2. Carroll will play Hamilton Southeastern, who beat it 21-15 in the semi-state last week, and Warren Central in 2023.
“I think it’s huge,” Dinan said of the importance of the schedule change. “We have a good conference with good football teams and great coaches and great kids. But you stay in Fort Wayne and don’t really compete with the best in the state. Being able to split our conference into sides and being able to record some games outside of the conference will greatly benefit our growth. We look forward to that.”
Center Grove, in their first year as an independent club after leaving the Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference, also needs opponents for future schedules for the matchup to make sense. As for Friday’s game, Eric Moore said he sees an opponent similar to the best the Trojans are playing.
“They’re fast, very athletic, and their secondary class is as good as I’ve seen,” Moore said. “They are very well trained and their offense is multifaceted. Not everyone offers all of that and they have a great kicking game. And I know they are emotionally driven by the loss of a young man in their program.”
Owen Scheele died in June after a brief battle with chronic myeloid leukemia. Scheele, who wore the No. 13 jersey, would have been a senior quarterback at Carroll that season. Playing for Scheele’s memory was a rallying point for Carroll that season.
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“It brought the community together, whether it’s teammates or people outside of the program,” said Dinan, who spoke visibly emotionally about Scheele. “All actions were for him and in his honor. He wore number 13, our kids talk about it all the time. We’re 13-0 and those numbers are special to us. He was a great competitor. He should be our quarterback. He was a tremendously gifted player who threw the ball very well. We were excited about his future and where he would take us. It was so quick and so tragic. It’s even harder to accept at this point.”
Here’s a closer look at the Class 6A title game:
Carroll (13-0) vs. Center Grove (11-2)
Carroll #5; Middle Grove #4
Friday, 7 p.m. at Lucas Oil Stadium
Bally Sports Indiana Extra and IHSAAtv.org
Carroll is playing in his first state soccer championship. The Chargers have five state titles in school history, two in baseball (2010 and ’11), two in girls’ cross-country (2018 and ’19), and one in boys’ cross-country (2016).
Center Grove has four state championships in soccer, winning 5A in 2008 and 6A in 2015, 2020 and 2021. Center Grove has 19 state championships in all sports with a high of seven in softball.
Doug Dinan, 56, is in his 13th yearth season at Carroll with a record of 103-45. He coached 17 seasons at Fort Wayne Snider as an assistant before joining Carroll. A native of Zanesville, Ohio, Dinan graduated from Ohio State. His father was a high school basketball coach in Ohio.
Eric Moore, 61, is in his 24th season at Center Grove with a 235-74 record and four state championships. A 1979 Edgewood and 1984 Indiana University graduate, Moore trained as an assistant in Punta Gorda, Florida, then as a head coach at Charlotte High School in Florida before joining Center Grove in 1999.
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A closer look at Carroll
Carroll is one of two teams making their State Finals debut alongside Whiteland in 5A. The Chargers had never won a regional win before this season, but rebounded from a 13-point halftime deficit to defeat Lafayette Jeff and win the regional championship. Carroll batted 21-15 at home in semi-state No. 1 Hamilton Southeastern last week.
Carroll is led offensively by second quarterback Jimmy Sullivan, who completes 65.5% of his passes for 2,203 yards and 27 touchdowns. The Chargers are balanced at the receiver position with seniors Camden Herschberger (57 catches, 737 yards, seven TDs) and Jayden Hill (33 catches, 472 yards, four TDs) and junior Hansen Haffner (37 catches, 479 yards, 10 TDs). Nate Starks, a sophomore running back, has 1,127 rushing yards and seven rushing TDs, and junior Braden Steely has 482 rushing yards and 13 rushing TDs.
Carroll’s defense, which allows just 9.8 points per game, is supported by junior lineman Ashton Pesetski (86 tackles, 21 tackles for losses, 11 sacks, three interceptions), senior linebacker Maxton Wiard (62 tackles, nine for losses), and senior defense Back Jorge led Valdes (52 tackles, five sacks).
A closer look at Center Grove
Center Grove is making its fourth straight state finals appearance and is seeking its third straight championship. This is the Trojans’ sixth appearance in a title game in eight seasons. Center Grove averages 35.7 points per game, which ranks fifth in 6A. The Trojans are looking to win their 15th straight tournament game, dating back to the 2019 state championship game.
Center Grove is joined on offense by seniors Micah Coyle (1,941 yards, 21 TDs) and Jalen Thomeson (954 yards, nine TDs) with running back and junior quarterback Tyler Cherry (2,154 passing yards, 21 TDs) and junior receiver Noah Coy ( 57 catches, 1,081 yards, 13 TDs). Senior Eli Hohlt has 15 receptions for 227 yards and three TDs in 11 games.
On defense, the Trojans are joined by junior linebacker Owen Bright (69 tackles, 11½ tackles for loss, 3½ sacks), senior safety Gage Rees (61½ tackles, two interceptions), and junior linebacker Kaden McConnell (52½ tackles, three forced). fumbles), along with junior linemen Elijah Chandler (46 tackles, five sacks) and Nate Johnson (39½ tackles, 5½ sacks). Senior Nolan Foley is also one of the best in the state at his position.
How Carroll can win
Stop the run – or at least slow it down. The Trojans have intensified ground attack over the past three weeks, including 302 yards on the ground in a 33-10 win over Cathedral last week. Stopping the run was an area of strength for Carroll, allowing just 98.4 yards per play on the ground. Keeping Center Grove under 150 yards off the ground would be ideal. Don’t flip the ball on offense. Carroll has just 13 turnovers in 13 games – none in the last two weeks.
How Center Grove can win
Get off to a good start. It’s not essential for this team to win, as last week’s early 10-0 deficit against Cathedral showed. But you have to wonder what Carroll’s mindset will be if she falls early against back-to-back champions. That might feel daunting for a first-time team under the bright lights of Lucas Oil Stadium. This game will be more conducive to Center Grove’s passing game than the semi-state cold and snow. But if Coyle and Thomeson get it down, the Trojans will be hard to beat. Coyle has averaged 187 yards on the ground in his last eight games.
31 Center Grove, 21 Carroll
Call Star Reporter Kyle Neddenriep at (317) 444-6649.