For the first time in over 30 years, the Lawrence North Wildcats under head coach Pat Mallory are sectional champions after beating rival Lawrence Central last week 28-20. The time for celebration, however, is over, with defending 6A state champion Center Grove coming to Lawrence North to compete for the regional title on Friday.
“It feels amazing that we could be the true turning point in our program,” linebacker Danny Royster said. “It feels good to prove the doubters wrong. They all said we couldn’t do it and we did it. I’m preparing by cutting any distractions out that can mess with my game and healing my body after each work day.”
Center Grove is fresh off a 41-7 win over Columbus North. They haven’t lost a game since the 2019 state title game v. Carmel. Only Indianapolis Cathedral has held their offense below 35 points this season. Still, defensive back Jackson Griffin said the team can improve.
“What we learned from last week’s sectional championship is that we still have things to work on in all aspects of the game,” Griffin said. “We are getting close but there’s still work to be done. We are locked in and ready for Friday night. We know they’re a talented team.”
Quarterback Tayven Jackson will lead the offense for Center Grove. Jackson, a Tennessee commit, per MaxPreps has thrown for 1,469 yards, 20 touchdowns and just two interceptions. He has a 129.2 QB rating, an improvement over a year ago. Trojans running back Drew Wheat leads the team in all-purpose yards (1,136).
“You can tell he watches film from the way he plays and he is great at making something happen when the play breaks down,” Lawrence North linebacker Romaro Warren said of Jackson. “We all are preparing for them by learning from are mistakes the first time and knowing how we need to play this time around.”
The Wildcats have some weapons of their own, too, including running back Ali Richardson, quarterback Montez Jones, and senior wide receiver Omar Cooper, a national recruit who has committed to Indiana. Cooper had five catches for 103 yards and one touchdown last week. Richardson, is a junior who eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark and has scored 15 touchdowns. He had 30 carries for 92 yards and two touchdowns last week.
“All three of them can make something happen with the ball in their hands,” Griffin said. “Their defense loves to fly around the field. Omar is a great athlete and competitor. Ali can hit the hole fast. Montez is definitely an athlete and can make something out of nothing.”
Defensively, the Wildcats are led by Royster, a Ball State commit, and Warren. Last week against Lawrence Central, Warren had six tackles and a blocked field goal.
When the teams met during the regular season in Week 7, Center Grove won 43-19.