Red, White & Friday Night Lights
Writer / Suzanne Huntzinger
Photographer / Brian Brosmer
The 2016 football season kicked off with the Trojans’ first home game against Warren Central. Preparation for the big season has been nothing short of miraculous. I sat down with Trojan Football’s Parents Club President Joe Lansdell to get a glimpse into the season’s playbook.
For the Trojan football team, the road to the season opener was more than a little rocky. The defending, undefeated 2015 State Champs were looking ahead to what was supposed to be another stellar season. That is, until some bad news tackled the team instantly.
Lansdell says back in February, an inspection revealed Center Grove’s stadium was unsafe. Among the many issues were worn galvanizing of the bleachers and foundation settling. With a lot of questions about the season hanging in the air, one answer was clear – the current stadium would have to be completely demolished.
It was a tough tackle to swallow for this tight-knit Center Grove Community who was on a high from the State Championship, a rare honor for any team. The last thing coaches, athletes, parents and fans wanted was for the 43 Senior players not to be able to play home games on their home turf.
But instead of taking the punt, the Trojans went for the fourth and long. After the entire community rallied around the team with their support, the coaches, school Principal, Superintendent, Parents Club, band members and more met to discuss how they might turn the game around. Soon, plans were drawn up for a fresh and exciting new stadium. As thrilled as everyone was to have a solution, some felt the plans were allotting for something just a little too small. When community leader and longtime resident Ray Skillman got word of this, he delivered a Hail Mary pass that had everyone cheering.
“Thanks to Skillman’s generous donation, the shiny, new stadium has a double deck press box, all new lighting, a new speaker system and new bleachers with around 1,200 additional seats. Another generous donation by Duke Homes made it possible to build a spirit pavilion for the fans,” says Lansdell.
After enduring months of constant construction, Coach Eric Moore, in his 18th year at Center Grove with over 200 wins on his record, is ready to lead his Trojans onto the field. Lansdell says, “More than 100 people put in a lot of sweat equity volunteering to help get the stadium ready for the opening game. People were moving boxes, setting things up. We’re so grateful for all of this.”
Getting ready for the season football opener is just part of what’s going on this season for this team which ranks in the top 10 of the Metropolitan Interscholastic Football conference, one of the toughest conferences in the city. Continuing the tradition, the Parents Club, made up of all the players’ parents, will have their weekly Friday night tailgate dinners. Around 400 to 600 people are served at these tailgate dinners to which anyone in the community who wants to support the team is invited.
“All the players and their families come. Everyone pitches in. Some parents bring the main dish, and others bring sides. It’s a great tradition because proper nutrition is the most important thing for these athletes,” says Lansdell.
On tap this season for the red and white is a challenging schedule. Among the top matchups for the Trojans as always is the game with the Carmel Greyhounds, a game that has been won within a three point margin for the past seven years.
Plenty of action is happening off the field as well. The team’s largest fundraiser, the annual craft fair, will be held this winter. The fair features dozens of vendors with a sea of crafts for the home, gifts and more. These fundraisers make it possible to offer two college scholarships, the Gridiron Scholarship and the Parents Club Scholarship, that mean so much for this nationally ranked team that endured so much this year.
All the support and generosity has earned the Center Grove team a lot of yardage. The Trojan team boasts some players who went on to play football for Division I schools including Stanford and Vanderbilt.
No doubt the team is revved up for what looks to be a very promising and exciting season. You can follow the Trojan huddle every Friday night at centergrovefootball.com for a live streaming webcast. Go Trojans!