CGHS Football Has Sights Set on Another State Championship
The unparalleled success Center Grove (CG) enjoyed on the football field the past two seasons has been scary good. Hence earning the moniker, ‘Monsters of the M.I.C.’ (Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference). The Trojans are the first team in the M.I.C. to go undefeated in conference play in back-to-back seasons, capturing the conference championship trophy in 2020 and 2021. Center Grove went 14-0 last season and won the class 6A state title. CG concluded the 2021 regular season with another undefeated record at 9-0 which included victories over Cathedral, Carmel, Warren Central and Ben Davis.
“It is almost unprecedented in the largest class to see this type of sustained excellence,” says Kyle Neddenriep, Indianapolis Star newspaper high school sports writer. “There have been dominant teams for a season, but it usually cycles through to the next team the following year. I know (CG head football coach) Eric Moore was concerned with complacency going into the season, but it seems like – if anything – this year’s team is even more dominant.”
The CG football program has been elite the past two seasons, ranked not only the number one team in Indiana, but ranked number one in the midwest and top 10 in the nation.
“I thought last year the Trojans were in the discussion in terms of the best team of all-time,” says Greg Rakestraw, ISC Sports Network high school football announcer. “The only one that I’d say from a numbers and historical perspective that might have topped them, would be 2006 Warren Central, who CG is trying to match as the last team to repeat as state champ in the state’s largest classification. I thought this year’s CG team wouldn’t be as good but would still be the best team in the state. The latter part is clear, now it’s simply a matter of comparing this group to a season ago. But to potentially be the first team to repeat in the history of 6A, and the first to three championships at the 6A level is clearly something Eric Moore and staff can hang their hat on.”
Moore’s first season coaching at CG was in 1999. He is now seeing his former players from teams in the early 2000s return to the community and volunteer to coach in the CG Bantam Football League.
“That’s the full circle,” Moore says. “Football is extremely important to the Center Grove community because of what has happened with it. With the success of so many kids (former players), it helps you create a family atmosphere and a true program as we are still doing the same things that we did in 1999 in 2021.”
Another key ingredient to Moore’s successful program is his ability to keep his coaching staff intact year after year.
“Since the 2000 runner-up team, very few coaches have come and gone,” Moore says. “Most have stayed and I’m very proud of that. They are good teachers and good fathers. It’s been a great ride for everybody and the last two years have been a lot of icing on the cake.”
This year’s team has not one but two Mr. Football candidates, seniors Caden Curry and Tayven Jackson. Curry is a four-year starter on the defensive line and Jackson is a three-year starter at quarterback.
“Caden, as a sophomore in the state championship game in 2019, ran sideline to sideline making plays,” Moore recalls. “This kid is legit. It’s hard to start in the M.I.C. conference as a freshman in a line position. He’s just never had a bad game. It’s been our privilege to watch him do so many things. This year he caught a touchdown and ran for a couple of touchdowns. It’s been fun to watch him on the red zone offense.
“It’s been a blessing to watch Tayven grow and learn and continue to learn,” Moore adds. “I can’t believe it’s going to be over in four weeks. If things go well, it could be a third time he goes to the state championship and that is unprecedented as well.”
No quarterback has led an Indiana high school football team to three consecutive state championship games. Jackson could be the first if the Trojans make it back to Lucas Oil Stadium for the 6A state title game on Thanksgiving weekend.
Jackson has committed to play football at the University of Tennessee.
“Anytime you have a two-way threat, it creates a problem for the opponent,” says Paul Condry, President of Indiana Football Digest magazine. “Tayven is that guy. He can beat you in so many ways. North and South (passing the ball), East and West (running the ball). He is a special talent.”
“Jackson really came on to the scene as a sophomore when he had one of his best games in the state championship loss to Carmel,” Neddenriep says. “He had another big-time moment as a junior when he led Center Grove down the field in a win over Cathedral in the final minute. His ability to run and throw is a weapon not a lot of teams have. Because of his position, it helps his visibility for awards like Mr. Football. He’s also won a state championship already and might be on his way to another.”
Curry could arguably be Center Grove’s greatest football player of all time. He has narrowed his college football choices to five schools, Alabama, Clemson, Indiana, Ohio State and Oregon.
“I think Caden Curry is the best all-around football player in the state of Indiana,” Condry says. “It’s a very unique dynamic when a defensive player is at the centerpiece of your opponent’s game-plan. The times that I have seen him play, his motor is always in overdrive. I sure hope he goes to play at Indiana (University). He is a once-in-a-generation type of athlete. In my opinion, Caden Curry should be named Mr. Football.”
“If there is an opportunity for a defensive player to win Mr. Football, this is it,” Neddenriep says. “Curry’s impact goes well beyond his numbers, which are impressive for his career. Curry is probably the best defensive lineman I have covered since Sheldon Day at Warren Central, who was similarly quick and strong. I think it will help Curry’s chances that he has played some offense this year, too.”
“Curry’s one of the three best Indiana high school football players I’ve ever seen,” Rakestraw adds. “I marvel at his ability to run sideline to sideline for a player of his size. I think back to the tackle he made in the semi-state game his sophomore season against Ben Davis where he lined up over center and made the play on the far sideline for a gain of two or three yards. I just started laughing on the air when that happened. You’re not supposed to do that at his size. Then you add what we saw again against Ben Davis with a one-handed touchdown catch this season. The sky’s the limit for that young man.”
The Trojans have won 10 straight Sectional titles, the longest current winning streak in the state. CG also looks to become the first team to win back-to-back 6A state titles.
“This Center Grove team could go down as one of the best high school football teams in Indiana history,” Condry says.