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Greyhounds, Trojans to face off for Copper Kettle

By Andrew Smith
GridironDigest.com

One of the state’s top rivalries isn’t forged by being neighbors, but competition on the football field. 

For the 25th time, Center Grove and Carmel will meet in the regular season, with the “Copper Kettle” trophy on the line this Friday at Center Grove. 

The two programs have become two of the state’s football blue-bloods, winning five of the last seven Class 6A state titles. Carmel has eight state titles in its history, Center Grove four. Three times since 2008, they’ve met for the state championship. CG is ranked No. 1 in Class 6A, Carmel No. 4. Interestingly, the No. 2 and 3 teams - Cathedral and Brownsburg - also meet this week. 

Their regular-season series has been dead-even - each team has won 12 games. 

“The rivalry is very important to the players,” Carmel coach John Hebert said. “I’m trying to get them to understand that it is just one game and it’s only Week 2 but I don’t think they are buying that.  It will be a very tough, physical game. (Center Grove has) won 29 games in a row, so it goes without saying that are extremely hard to beat. I think if you are a real competitor, you love a game like this. We are all excited for the opportunity.” 

Center Grove, winners of the last two state titles, has the fourth-longest winning streak in the IHSAA tournament era. The longest is 34 games, held by Warren Central from 1983-86. Carmel was the last team to knock off the Trojans in the 2019 state title game - and the desire for the Greyhounds’ seniors to get back to Lucas Oil Stadium is palpable. 

“Our seniors were freshman when we last won the 6A title so they are very intent on earning a ring,” Hebert said. “They are very focused getting that opportunity and seem to understand that it is a season long process to get there. They’ve been a lot of fun to coach already.” 

The Trojans’ attack was led last week by senior running back Micah Coyle, who tallied 221 yards and two touchdowns in a 17-8 victory over Warren Central. Tyler Cherry takes over at quarterback, with two-year starter Tayven Jackson having graduated and now playing at the University of Tennessee. 

Carmel, ranked No. 4 in Class 4A, dropped a 17-7 decision to Kentucky powerhouse Louisville Trinity in the opener. Blake Matthews had 87 receiving yards and a touchdown to lead the Greyhounds, while senior Reece Bellin had 65 yards receiving last week. Desmond Duffy is an Ohio University commit, giving quarterback Jackson Kazmierczak a number of quality targets. 

“The 2022 Carmel team is a very experienced team with several starters returning, but as per usual Carmel will have great size and speed,” CG coach Eric Moore said of this week’s opponent. “Carmel’s offense runs the ball with speed and power, but has an excellent passing attack, with a big offensive line that is quite athletic.” 

Both teams are stout defensively. Carmel’s defense is led by 6-6 linebacker Will Heidt - whom Moore cited as one of the state’s top players - and safety Winston Berguland, a fellow Purdue commit. Mason Bardwell had 15 tackles and Hunter Snow 14 against Trinity. CG’s Parker Doyle had a team-high seven tackles and an interception in the win over Warren Central. Safety Jalen Thomeson is the leading returning tackler, with 60 tackles and an interception in 2021. 

For the Trojans to keep the Copper Kettle, ball control will be key. 

“The Trojans will have to control the football and not have useless turnovers, Moore said. “First downs for the will be key and will keep the Carmel offense off the field. Once again the Trojan defense must eliminate the big play drive and make Carmel earn every yard.” 

Battle of 5A/4A heavyweights

The first time New Palestine and Decatur Central met on the football field, it was the 2018 State Finals - a game won by New Palestine 28-14. 

Even then, the two schools had planned to face off in the regular season, and they’ll face off Friday at New Palestine in a matchup of top-two teams in their respective classes. Decatur Central is No. 2 in Class 5A, while New Palestine is No. 2 in the IFCA 4A poll and No. 1 in the AP, returning to the top spot for the first time since the start of the 2020 season. 

Big non-conference matchups are nothing new for either squad. This week will be New Palestine’s sixth consecutive non-conference game against a ranked team since a 2019 - facing Center Grove, Brebeuf Jesuit, Decatur Central and Westfield in that stretch, all of which have recently been to the State Finals. Decatur Central has also faced Center Grove and Westfield in recent years, as well as Franklin Central and Roncalli. 

“Our number 1 goal is to win the Mid-State Conference, but a close second is to be playing our best football in November when it matters most.  We feel playing great competition early helps us get to where we need to be in November,” Decatur Central coach Kyle Enright said. 

DC beat Columbus North 26-12 in last week’s opener and features one of the state’s top seniors in quarterback/linebacker Aycen Stevens, a Virginia Tech commit. 

“Aycen is a talented football player, but an even better young man.  He leads by example and has taken that a step further as a senior and has become a vocal leader as well,” Enright said, calling Stevens a coach on the field. 

Stevens and fellow linebacker Cam Renick - who are also best friends - both spent the offseason recovering from knee injuries and pushing themselves to get back into action. 

“They pushed each other to get back on the field by June,” Enright said. “When your best players are your hardest workers, you have a chance to be a very good team and no one outworks Aycen and Cam.” 

K.C. Berry played a big role in the Hawks’ season-opening win. He had a 35-yard interception return for a score and an 86-yard TD reception last week. 

New Palestine opened the year with a 42-28 victory over Westfield, which entered the year ranked No. 6 in Class 6A. The Dragons used their offensive line - led by Louisville commit Luke Burgess and heavily-recruited junior Ian Moore - to amass 299 yards on the ground, 189 of which belonged to junior Grayson Thomas. The Dragons ran the ball on all but two of their second-half snaps. 

Leading 28-14 in the third quarter, New Palestine ground out an eight-minute drive to restore a three-score lead, and then finished the game with another long march. 

“We told them at halftime … you guys are going to have to win the game for us,” New Palestine coach Kyle Ralph said. “If we’re supposed to have a really good offensive line that’s as talented as they are, as heralded as they are, those are things you expect. You put the game on their back and they delivered. For Week 1, that’s something you want to see, especially against a very good inside six as Westfield has.” 

Big game in the Fort

In Fort Wayne, two heavyweights won their first games, as 5A No. 3 Snider defeated arch-rival Fort Wayne North 20-18, while 6A No. 10 Carroll won 42-3 over Luers. 

This contest, which Carroll will host, is an early test for both teams and could go a long way in determining the Summit Athletic Conference champion. 

Two of the last three matchups between the schools have been decided by one point. 

Sophomore quarterback Jimmy Sullivan threw for 234 yards and three scores in Carroll’s win over Luers, completing passes to six different receivers. Snider coach Kurt Tippmann described the Chargers as a team that is very well-coached by Doug Dinan, plays extremely hard and has a quick, disruptive defense. 

For Snider, Luke Haupert returns at quarterback and led the Panthers to an early two-score lead before they held off a late North comeback last week. The Panthers return their top three receivers. 

“Game 1 is always a bit sloppy and certainly was the case for us,” Snider coach Kurt  Tippmann said. “However, we were extremely proud of our players toughness and willingness to fight in a tight game and come away with a victory.  I think North Side is a good team and will make tough competition for the SAC opponents.” 

This is the final time the SAC will play a nine-game conference schedule, as the league will split into divisions next season. Thus, each week in the 10-team conference has title implications. Snider, Carroll and Luers shared the league title with 8-1 regular-season records a year ago. 

“I think our schedule is great and does do a great job preparing for the playoff season,” Tippmann said. “Each week we face players that can take over a game and score any time they touch the ball.  The coaching is good and provides a great challenge every week.  Next year will be different and we look forward to facing some non-conference opponents to get experience with other teams.” 

Milestone win

Mooresville coach Mike Gillin reached a milestone last week in the Pioneers’ 38-13 victory over Bloomington North. 

The victory was Gillin’s 350th in a career that has spanned 44 seasons. He is in his sixth season at Mooresville after stints at Indian Creek, Decatur Central and Tri-West. 

Gillin led Tri-West to the Class 2A State Finals in 1989. Most recently, he took Mooresville to the semistate in 2020. 

“I’ve had a lot of good support and some good kids,” Gillin told the Martinsville Reporter-Times. “The formula’s pretty obvious. If you’ve got kids who want to compete, practice and work hard, you’ll win. I’ve been fortunate enough to have a lot of those.” 

Gillin is the fourth-winningest coach in Indiana, behind Sheridan’s Bud Wright (436 wins), Knox’s Russ Radtke (380 wins) and former Jasper coach Jerry Brewer (368 wins).

Mooresville hosts Danville this week. 

Quick hits

Roncalli running back Luke Hansen ran for 335 yards and five touchdowns Friday in the Royals’ 46-7 victory over Southport. That broke a 20-year-old school record previously held by Marcus Nally. … Two teams broke long skids last week. Rushville snapped a 24-game losing steak with a 41-35 win over Milan. It was the Lions’ first victory since Sept. 20, 2019, and the first career head coaching win for Isaac Sliger, a former Rushville player. The Lions face Shelbyville this week. North Miami beat Manchester 14-12, snapping an 18-game skid that had dated back to Aug. 28, 2020. …  Tri-West’s Ty Owens threw for 380 yards in a 20-14 victory over Western, completing 27-of-40 passes. The Class 3A No. 4 Bruins face 4A No. 9 Brebeuf Jesuit this Friday. Braves QB Nolan Buckman threw for 2,993 yards in leading Brebeuf to the Class 3A State Finals last year. … Guerin Catholic’s Ryan Zimmerman also had a stellar season-opening passing performance, completing 26-of-39 for 363 yards in a 45-21 victory over McCutcheon. … There were two changes atop the IFCA poll. In Class 4A, Roncalli moved to No. 1 after its win over Southport and Noblesville’s 43-35 victory over previous No. 1 Mt. Vernon. In Class 2A, Evansville Mater Dei moved to

 No. 1 with a 35-0 victory over Evansville Central. Previous No. 1 Andrean fell 27-7 to 5A No. 1 Merrillville. … Center Grove (6A), Merrillville (5A), Indianapolis Chatard (3A) and Indianapolis Lutheran (1A) remained No. 1 after season-opening wins. 

Other key games this week

6A #9 Lawrence North at 5A #3 Whiteland

3A #6 Guerin Catholic at 2A #5 Lafayette Central Catholic

5A #7 Castle at 2A #1 Evansville Mater Dei

South Bend St. Joseph at 5A #6 Mishawaka

4A #4 East Central at Harrison (Ohio)

4A #9 Brebeuf at 3A #4 Tri-West 

East Noble at 4A #7 NorthWood

Tech at 3A #1 Indianapolis Chatard

Speedway at 2A #7 Scecina

Indianapolis Ritter at 1A #1 Indianapolis Lutheran

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(Again, any newspaper, website or radio station that wants to use this content, it is yours free to use. Just make sure to give the author and GridironDigest.com credit. DM me your email address and I'll send it to you directly). 

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2 hours ago, crimsonace1 said:

 

(Again, any newspaper, website or radio station that wants to use this content, it is yours free to use. Just make sure to give the author and GridironDigest.com credit. DM me your email address and I'll send it to you directly). 

And a Podcast too? I’ll be enjoying these every week!

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12 hours ago, TigerFan20 said:

And a Podcast too? I’ll be enjoying these every week!

The pod is a quick five-minute version intended for radio pregame shows (and it's running on at least three stations right now with hopefully more to come). 

Back in the day, TA and I hosted a podcast where we'd go around the state every week for about an hour, have guests, et al. I'd love to do something like that again but that pesky time gets in the way. 

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23 hours ago, crimsonace1 said:

Other key games this week

6A #9 Lawrence North at 5A #3 Whiteland

3A #6 Guerin Catholic at 2A #5 Lafayette Central Catholic

5A #7 Castle at 2A #1 Evansville Mater Dei

South Bend St. Joseph at 5A #6 Mishawaka

4A #4 East Central at Harrison (Ohio)

4A #9 Brebeuf at 3A #4 Tri-West 

East Noble at 4A #7 NorthWood

Tech at 3A #1 Indianapolis Chatard

Speedway at 2A #7 Scecina

Indianapolis Ritter at 1A #1 Indianapolis Lutheran

A few other key games that I think could have been added that you did not include (no hate here, I love your write ups!)

Chesterton at Warsaw - both teams ranked/receiving votes and had impressive Week 1 wins
Northridge at Elkhart - same as above

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6 hours ago, NLCTigerFan07 said:

A few other key games that I think could have been added that you did not include (no hate here, I love your write ups!)

Chesterton at Warsaw - both teams ranked/receiving votes and had impressive Week 1 wins
Northridge at Elkhart - same as above

Those two were on my list of "games to watch" but I was trying to keep it tight. There are plans to give the NLC some love here in the next few weeks. 

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