History 3Peats Itself
Writer / Kevin Conrad
Photography Provided by Lindy Scott
The Center Grove High School (CGHS) football program was loaded with talent in 2020 and 2021, and was viewed as the heavy favorite to win the state championships in those two seasons. However, with the loss of that talent through graduation, Center Grove wasn’t given much credence to win a third straight title in 2022.
“This was a team that flew under the radar,” says Eric Moore, CGHS head football coach. “I appreciated the way they took advantage of their opportunity. What will your legacy be? You’re going to get credit for what happens this year. How do you want to be remembered?”
The Trojans took this to heart – the seniors in particular.
“The seniors stood up,” Moore says. “No one, to the very last week of the season, gave them much of a chance to win. They were underdogs. They took control of their legacy.”
Following back-to-back undefeated championship seasons, the Trojans suffered two losses during the 2022 regular season and lost key contributors throughout the season due to injuries. However, the coaches and players stayed the course and were able to overcome any adversity that came their way.
“The most impressive part of this program is how everyone is willing to step up and take charge when called upon,” says Center Grove Athletic Director Joe Bronkella. “Injuries decimated our roster, but other players changed roles and did what they could to help make the team as successful as possible. In most places, that would not happen. Instead, excuses come out. Here, there were no excuses, just the execution of game plans. I was proud of how our athletes and coaches represented us this fall and especially in the state tournament.”
Dynasty? Based on what Center Grove has done on the field through the past three seasons, the answer is a resounding “Yes.” In this decade, the Trojans are 40-2 with an unprecedented three consecutive 6A state titles, and are 25-0 against the Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference teams.
“I feel like we’ve been the king of football for the past decade,” Moore says. “[Seniors are] the class with the most wins and the most rings in a row. It’s just a tribute to those guys for staying with the process.”
“Very few senior classes across the state can say that they made an appearance in the state finals game every year of their high school career, walking away with a runner-up and three state titles,” says CGHS Principal Jeff Henderson. “These seniors have provided our community with a tremendous amount of enjoyment and pride as we have watched them grow into the powerhouse that they became.”
This was Moore’s 24th season as head coach of the Center Grove football program. How did Center Grove football become a state and national powerhouse during his tenure? One word – toughness. Moore and his coaching staff preach toughness during the season and out of season.
“It’s being physically and mentally tough,” Moore says. “The drills we do, we’re flipping tires, doing up-downs, sled pulls, push-ups, things that make kids tough. Our practices are tougher than anybody’s. In practice we run the ball, our defense has to tackle and our scout teams run the football. At Center Grove football, we create a buy-in program. When I work, my money goes into the bank. The players bank on that throughout the winter and throughout the summer. When it’s game time, it’s payday. If you put in a lot of time, you’re going to get a nice reward with a victory. Victories are more important than anything for your kids. Our guys are going to block you, tackle you and they’re going to hit you. It’s just a different culture here.”
“Coach Moore has been committed to building a championship-caliber program throughout his career at Center Grove,” Henderson says. “His dedication to youth opportunities through the Bantam program, the middle school program, the high school program, all the way to the hard work he puts in helping players and parents navigate the recruiting process as they move on to play at the next level, is second to none. Center Grove has been blessed to have Coach Moore leading our football program, top to bottom. The number of lives that he has positively impacted is too many to count, and we appreciate his dedication and passion.”
Behind great head coaches are great assistant coaches. Center Grove football is no exception.
“We’re a bunch of addicts,” says Moore of the Center Grove football coaches. “We’re addicted to winning. We work so hard seven days a week for 17 weeks. We love to walk in the locker room on Friday nights to be together as men and hug and high-five, and take pride in the product we put on the field and take pride in what happens out there. We’re all on the same page. It’s all about the team winning.”
“All I can say about this program is that it is better than advertised,” says Bronkella, currently in his first year as athletic director at CGHS. “Being an outsider coming in, I had an expectation. However, the product far exceeded it. We have the best coaching staff in the state and the best student-athletes. I cannot describe how much this team meant to so many people in the community. I also am gracious that they all accepted me as a newcomer. Every coach and player I interacted with this past season was very respectful and professional. A team is a direct reflection of its leader, so kudos to Coach Moore and his assistants.”
“What an incredible run – back-to-back-to-back state championships in the toughest class in football,” Henderson adds. “Thank you to everyone who has been a part of this journey. Five state championships and counting. Onward Trojans!”