By Jeff Robison
— There are nights when things just don’t go as your way.
The Ben Davis Giants fell prey to a combination of their own mistakes, missed opportunities, and a more physical Center Grove Trojan football team last Friday night. That combo added up to the Class 5A No. 2-ranked Giants absorbing their first loss of the year in a 17-14 defeat to the visiting Trojans, spoiling senior night at Ben Davis.
The No. 5-ranked Trojans accomplished what other Ben Davis opponents had failed to do: effectively run the football against the stingy Giants defense. Center Grove piled up 238 rushing yards for the game and 378 offensive yards. The Trojans’ Alex Lucas had 139 yards on 21 carries.
Center Grove punished the Ben Davis defense in the second half for 167 rushing yards, keeping the smaller Giants defense on the field much longer than any other opposing team had done.
Ben Davis coach Mike Kirscher immediately pointed at the Trojans’ running game when looking at what caused the Giants’ downfall.
“The game changed because we really didn’t stop them from running the ball,” Kirschner said. “But, top to bottom, we were off. It was not our night at all.”
The Trojans’ rushing game weighed heavily against the Giants in the second half, helping tilt the end result to Center Grove after what had been a very tight contest, tied at 7-7 at halftime.
The Giants broke that tie when they capitalized on Center Grove quarterback Luke Calvert’s fumble on the Trojans’ opening drive of the second half. Ben Davis went up 14-7 when Malcolm Fogle took a pitch from quarterback Kyle Castner and cut back through a hole for a 10-yard touchdown run.
However, Fogle was injured on the play and that took away the starch from the BD offense. Fogle’s injury also signaled the Trojans taking control of the rest of the evening.
Center Grove answered to tie the score at 14-14 by moving the ball on a 78-yard, 16-play drive, one fueled with all but seven yards coming on the ground. Fullback Lane Morris gained the final yard just ahead of the third quarter whistle.
Meanwhile, the Giants’ offense failed to convert any further points with Fogle sidelined.
“We didn’t execute on offense,” Kirschner said. “We had the ball (in scoring position) too many times. We missed some blocks, didn’t run the ball the right way, made some bad throws, dropped some balls, and missed two field goals. We haven’t done that all year.”
The Giants missed out on two tries to score down the stretch.
The first missed scoring chance went for naught when the Trojans stuffed Fogle’s backup, Lajawon Gildon, for a loss on fourth down inside the Center Grove 15-yard line.
Later, the Giants failed on an attempt to tie when Bryce Phelps kicked a 39-yard field goal attempt right of the target with just 1:40 to play. Coupled with Sterling Steadham’s 46-yard field goal miss, the Giants ended 0-for-2 on kicking attempts.
In between those final two Ben Davis scoring opportunities, Center Grove put together its winning drive as Alex Lucas turned the corner and ran 53 yards, setting up Ben Wheeler for the game-winning 23-yard field goal.
Prior to halftime, Ben Davis had one effective drive for 92 yards as Fogle scored on a four-yard run. Taking away that lengthy drive, Ben Davis had just 159 more offensive yards for the game.
The end result leaves Ben Davis and Center Grove tied at 4-1 in Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference play and tied overall at 6-1.