GREENWOOD, Ind. -- The Center Grove High School football team once again relied on its versatile running game to win its second straight regional championship and fourth in five years with Friday's 58-34 comeback win over previously unbeaten Castle (12-1).
The Class 5A No. 6 Trojans trailed 27-22 late in the second quarter before scoring three straight touchdowns to take what would be an insurmountable lead.
Center Grove (12-1) will host top-ranked, undefeated Lawrence Central in next week's semistate. The Trojans lost to Carmel 21-17 in semistate last season and Warren Central 28-10 in 2009. They defeated Ben Davis 49-21 on the way to the 2008 state championship.
The Trojans were already without standout running back Logan Hutson, who is out with a season-ending injury. Then, last week's hero, Alex Lucas -- who rushed for 152 yards in the Trojans' sectional championship win -- left after only one play Friday. Still, the host Trojans managed to grind out 335 yards on the ground.
Senior Conner Stapleton (20 rushes, 192 yards, two touchdowns) and junior Lane Morris (11 rushes, 130 yards, two touchdowns, one receiving) picked up the load when Lucas limped off the field and didn't return after the Trojans' first play from scrimmage. Stapleton and Morris combined for 54 rushing yards last week.
Third-ranked Castle senior quarterback Mitch Gilles torched the Trojans with 301 first-half passing yards, but was held to 121 in the second half.
There were seven lead changes in the first half alone. Center Grove took the lead for good when tight end Nate Wozniak snared his second touchdown pass from quarterback Luke Calvert, an 11-yard grab to help the Trojans to a 30-27 lead with 1:50 left in the half.
Castle's quick-pass attack proved its detriment, as the Knights used just 11 seconds off the clock on the next series in going three-and-out. Center Grove got the ball back with 1:26 left and took advantage, going 46 yards on eight plays, with Morris scoring on a 6-yard pass from Calvert to help the Trojans to a 37-27 halftime lead.
Morris broke loose for a 66-yard touchdown run with 9:13 left in the third quarter to open a 44-27 lead.