CHAMPIONS: The Hounds pose for photographs after receiving the state championship trophy.

Ashwin Prasad

In a heart-stopping nailbiter, the Carmel Greyhounds (11-3) held off the Center Grove Trojans (8-6) 20-17 to win their ninth state championship at Lucas Oil Stadium. Four consecutive Trojan turnovers helped the Hounds rack up a 13-3 lead at halftime, and the Hounds withstood a furious Trojan comeback to prevail.

TRIUMPH: Senior running back Dylan Downing (2) embraces junior running back Zach White (39) after the Hounds win the state championship.

The kickoff was nervy, as sophomore AJ Vinatieri hooked it out of bounds. With strong field position, Center Grove established their powerful ground game from the jump, gaining 39 yards with the dynamic duo of junior Carson Steele and sophomore Daniel Weems. A roughing the passer penalty helped set up Center Grove in the red zone, but the Hounds defense stiffened up, limiting the Trojans to a 22 yard field goal.

The Hounds came right back. Senior quarterback Gabe Quigley started off with his signature keeper for 13 yards, and senior running back Dylan Downing ripped off a huge carry for 46 yards to the Center Grove 2, nearly fumbling. The Hounds then rapidly went backward due to a personal foul and a sack, but junior kicker Spencer Hanna rescued to drive with a 42 yard field goal to equalize the game. 

The turnover chain then began for the Trojans. Freshman running back Drew Wheat collided with his own teammate, and junior cornerback Owen Schaefer scooped up the loose ball. The Hounds made no progress however, and Hanna pulled a 34 yarder wide left. 

The Trojans immediately pushed back upfield. Sophomore quarterback Tayven Jackson pulled off a sidearm slinger to junior wide receiver Trent Veith to avoid blitzing senior linebacker Ty Wise for a 26 yard gain. 

Then there was trouble. On the first play of the second quarter, Jackson failed to complete the handoff to Steele. Junior linebacker Gavin Hale’s well-timed hit added to the chaos. Steele appeared to be down with the football, but Ty Bryant continued to wrestle it away for senior lineman Haakon Von Beynen to fall on. This time though, Quigley was immediately sacked for a three-and-out.

STANDOFF: Center Grove quarterback and sophomore Tayven Jackson (2) sizes up the Hounds defense. While the Hounds forced four straight first half turnovers, Jackson nearly carried the Trojans to a miraculous fourth quarter comeback.

Center Grove got right back to work. Weems sprinted for 23 yards, but Jakob Paris forced a fumble that Andrew Turvy pounced on with 8:40 to go. The Hounds faced a fourth-and inches, but Quigley snuck it over the line. Two plays later, he fired an arcing, accurate 48 yard touchdown strike to junior Baron Smith to put the Hounds on top 10-3.

Undaunted, Steele and Weems continued to attack the Hounds defense, with 8 rushes for 41 yards. Steele picked up a 4th and 1, and Jackson delivered a completion to Veith. As the half dwindled down, Jackson tried to air out an out route to a wide-open Veith, but Wise leaped up and brought down a crucial, touchdown-saving interception at the 17, running it back to the Trojan 44 with 27 seconds left. Once again, a long Center Grove drive came up empty, and the enterprising Hounds defense secured a backbreaking turnover.

The Hounds successfully raced the clock to add to the lead. On second down, Quigley fired a strike over the middle to Rogers to bring the Hounds to the Center Grove 19 with 19 seconds to go. With 5 seconds to go, Hanna’s 25 yard field goal soared down the middle. 

PACKING THE HOUSE: A large contingent of Greyhound fans filled the seats of Lucas Oil Stadium, willing the Hounds to the title.

The halftime break did not quench the Hounds’ thirst for a bigger lead. Senior wide receiver Colton Parker caught the kick at the Carmel 12 and zoomed upfield for 44 yards across midfield. Junior running back Zach White then bulled his way through a linebacker for a first down. This time, though, Quigley tried to pull the ball away from Downing and fumbled it back to the Trojans at the Center Grove 32. Wise, however, stuffed Steele and Weems on consecutive plays, and the Trojans punted the ball back.

On the next drive, the Hounds ground their way into scoring range with a 13 play, 81 yard drive spanning six minutes. Quigley converted a third down with a heady scramble before Rogers spun his way across midfield for a 14 yard gain. Quigley then converted another third down with an 18 yard scramble to the Trojan 26.  White finished off the drive, breaking two tackles and charging into the end zone to widen the lead to 20-3: a three-score lead heading into the fourth quarter.

To get back in the contest, the Trojans tried to get Jackson going. Spreading out the offense, Jackson completed five straight pass attempts for 42 yards. With his rhythm back, Jackson absorbed a hit and aired out a 41 yard rainbow that Veith snagged in the end zone to bring the Trojans within 10.

After the Hounds opted to punt on 4th and 1, Jackson continued the aerial assault on the next drive with five more passes for 28 yards. He picked up a massive 3rd and 5 with his legs with 4:30 to go, before finding Veith for a 13 yard gain to bring the Trojans into the red zone. Rolling right, Jackson flung an 11 yard touchdown to junior receiver Mason Long to narrow the score to 20-17 with 3:24 to go. 

It was officially crunch time, and the nervous Hounds faithful knew it.

Seeking to push their advantage, the Trojans attempted a risky onside kick that junior cornerback Tyson Pennington grabbed for the Hounds. On the ensuing possession, sophomore quarterback Zach Osborne was tackled for a loss, forcing a 3rd and 10 and a Trojan timeout with 2:30 to go. Downing, however, took a handoff, broke a tackle, and forced his way across the line to gain. Two plays and two Center Grove timeouts later, the Hounds faced a 3rd and 3 at the Center Grove 24 with 2:45 to play. Convert it, and the Hounds win the championship.

SEALING THE DEAL: Senior running back Dylan Downing shrugs off a Trojan defender, gaining a first down and clinching the championship for the Hounds.

Downing took the handoff, cut to the right, and sealed the deal. 


Head coach John Hebert sealed his 50th win for his second state championship. The Trojans outgained the Hounds 332 to 305, but fell to 2-3 in state championship games under longtime coach Eric Moore. Quigley suffered an arm injury late in the game, and sophomore quarterback Zach Osborne took over.