Perserverance Pays Off With Class 6A Title For Carmel
Up to its end, the 2016 season seemed anything but perfect for the Carmel Greyhounds. An open game loss to Hamilton Southeastern, a rare upset loss to Lawrence North in conference play, all leading up to six turnovers in the Class 6A state championship game against Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference rival Center Grove.
But, none of that matters now, as the Greyhounds stripped Center Grove star Russ Yeast at the goal line in overtime, and kicker Conner Coghlan delivered the game-winner as Carmel pulled out a 16-13 championship thriller over the Trojans, ending Day 1 of the 2016 IHSAA State Football Tournament Finals on a high note.
It was a true sign of perserverance, something that Carmel coach John Hebert saluted his team after pulling out the dramatic victory.
“I guess this was fitting,” Hebert said. “Our kids have stayed steady over the last six weeks, not getting too high or too low and focusing on the next play. Our defense played so well, and really pulled together in the last two months of the season. We decided we would not leave anything left on this field, and we did that.”
Throughout the game, the ball bounced Center Grove’s way. Carmel was plagued by turnovers, with three first half fumbles aiding the Trojans to a 10-3 advantage. Center Grove got onto the scoreboard first as Luke Eckert converted a first fumble into a 25-yard field goal. Later, Will Schmidt’s fumble inside the Carmel 20 created a short field and one-yard touchdown for Titus McCoy.
And, while the turnovers continued to mount into the second half, with another fumble and pair of interceptions, Carmel’s defense rose to the occasion to deny any further scoring damage.
Coghlan broke the ice for Carmel with a 42-yard field goal before the break, and tacked on a 22-yarder in the third quarter as the Greyhounds remained in reach of a victory that should have been out of reach.
That gave Carmel a chance to dig deepest in the fourth quarter as the Greyhounds marched 87 yards in 16 plays, with Jerome Halsell breaking loose an eleven yard touchdown for Carmel’s first lead of the night—with just 46 seconds on the clock.
Still, Center Grove found just enough time to give Eckert a shot at tying the game to go overtime. He made one try from 50 yards, which hit the crossbar and careened through, but that was erased as Hebert called timeout before the snap. But, the Trojans sophomore kicker repeated the feat on a second try to set up overtime at the approach of the stadium’s south end zone.
Center Grove took possession first, and McCoy immediately carried the Trojan’s to the two-yard line, before exiting on an injury. Yeast took over the backfield, and tried to go over the top of the pile, but his final reach allowed the Greyhounds to strip the ball into Austin Newland’s hands.
Needing just a field goal, Hebert decided to go immediately, and Coghlan delivered the game and title to Carmel.
Center Grove coach Eric Moore accepted the result.
“We cannot leave our defense on the field like that,” Moore said. “All the credit to Carmel for coming up with the plays.”
Center Grove senior Logan Bontrager claimed the Phil N. Eskew Mental Attitude Award during postgame ceremonies. A track and football standout, Bontrager is still determining his future plans, but likely will pursue finance, math, or business law going forward.