After digging itself a 19-0 hole Friday night, Columbus North gave itself a glimmer of hope when it got on the board with a touchdown midway through the second quarter.
Russ Yeast and his Center Grove teammates put those comeback hopes to rest.
Yeast, who last week committed to Louisville, scored two long touchdowns in the final 3:45 of the first half to give the Trojans a 34-7 halftime lead in what would become a 41-14 sectional final victory.
“We sure dug a hole, and that’s disappointing,” North coach Tim Bless said. “But our kids are a resilient bunch and fought back there a little bit. We just couldn’t get back off the field soon enough to give our offense another opportunity.”
Yeast was a one-man highlight reel for the Class 6A No. 3 Trojans (10-1). He carried 10 times for 123 yards and two touchdowns and caught three passes for 114 yards and two scores. All of his receiving yards and all but 14 of his rushing yards came in the first half.
The backbreaker was a 90-yard touchdown run with 1:04 left in the first half after a Mark Salle-Tabor punt pinned Center Grove at its 10-yard line.
“To have a chance against a team this athletic, you have to make them earn everything,” Bless said. “Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case tonight. They blasted us with multiple big plays in the first have and really opened up the game.”
After putting together an 11-play, 69-yard drive, capped by a 3-yard run by Yeast, to start the game, the Trojans used quick strikes to score the next two times it had the ball. Jack Kellums found a wide open Kaleb Hennessy 15 yards behind the defense for a 66-yard touchdown and a 13-0 lead.
Then after Center Grove threw Mitchell Burton for a 2-yard loss on fourth-and-1 from the Trojans 44, Kellams threw a swing pass to Yeast on the right sideline. Yeast made a couple of moves and broke back to the left and ran into the left corner of the end zone for a 19-0 lead with 2:37 left in the first quarter.
After stopping Center Grove on its next possession, the 6A No. 6 Bull Dogs (9-2) got on the board. On third-and-goal from the 5, Triston Perry was pressured, rolled out to the right, looked back to his left and found a wide-open Burton in the end zone.
The Trojans then answered when Kellums found Yeast behind the defense for a 62-yard scoring strike.
“When you take things away from us, you’ve got to give us other things,” Center Grove coach Eric Moore said.
North couldn’t pick up a first down and punted. Yeast then went 90 yards to give the Trojans a commanding halftime lead.
Center Grove put the game on ice on the first series of the second half when Parker Ferguson returned an interception 17 yards for a score.
North put together an 11-play, 86-yard drive to score its second touchdown. Burton took it the final yard.
“We moved the ball tonight,” Bless said. “The points probably don’t match up to the number of yards, and that’s a tremendous defense we went against tonight. You get past midfield, you need to be able to finish drives, and especially in the scoring zone. Their defense buckled down and made the plays when they needed to.”
Burton finished with 122 yards on 30 carries. Perry completed 20 of 36 passes for 149 yards, with Trey Vincent catching a career-high nine passes for 72 yards.
“They were stopping our offense,” Burton said. “We just tried everything we could and came up a little short.”