By JON REITER
Turnovers were Jeffersonville’s Achilles heel throughout the season — and they could ill afford in Friday’s Sectional 8 semifinal when No. 3 Center Grove invaded Blair Field for the sectional championship.
Unfortunately, the Red Devils (6-5) helped the Trojans out in that respect, handing them five takeways in the 35-0 loss.
Jeffersonville comitted four in the first half — two of which came late in the first half and were converted into touchdowns following short Trojan drives as the visitors carried a 21-0 lead into intermission.
“We moved the ball, we powered it, we had our offense going, we just couldn’t get it done inside the 10 when we needed to,” Jeffersonville coach Lonnie Oldham said. “We played hard. This wasn’t a 35-0 game. We were in this thing — but the mistakes we made killed us.”
Behind the running of seniors Dionte Allen and Austin Hines, the Red Devils moved the ball deep into Center Grove territory three times during the first half.
Following a lengthy Jeffersonville drive, the Red Devils had the ball at the Center Grove 1-yard line early in the secondquarter. Allen — a 6-foot-4, 280-pound battering ram — had the ball stripped from him as he was entering the end zone on fourth down and Center Grove recovered the football in the end zone.
The Red Devils had the opportunity to tie the game at 7-apiece on that play, but the defense responded, forcing the Trojans to a three-and-out. Later in the second quarter, Jeffersonville drove into Center Grove territory again, but a pass from freshmen quarterback Cameron Northern was picked off by Ryan Pendygraft at the Trojan 30.
Two plays later, Center Grove quarterback Luke Calvert hit Devon Helmsley for a 37-yard bomb along the Jeffersonville sideline. To close the drive, Lane Morris ran up the middle for a 6-yard touchdown and the extra-point gave the Trojans a 14-0 lead with 52 seconds left.
The backbreaker came on the ensuing kickoff. Inexplicably, the Red Devil kickoff team let the football hit the Blair Field turf at the Jeffersonville 23 and a Center Grove player jumped on the football. With 37 seconds left, Calvert hit Justin Veteto for a 19-yard touchdown pass and the extra point gave the Trojans a 21-0 lead going into halftime.
“The play with Dionte goes for a score, and we don’t make those two mistakes, there’s a good chance it’s 7-7 going into halftime,” Oldham said. “They’re maybe the state champs. That sort of thing gives a team some confidence.”
Allen finished his career at Jeffersonville by rushing nine times for 67 yards, catching five passes for 52 yards and completing 2 of 3 passes for 48 yards.
Hines, one of the school’s all-time leading rushers, carried 14 times for 59 yards. Northern, who was spelled by Allen after briefly being sidelined for a head injury late in the fourth quarter, completed 14 of 28 passes for 142 yards and three interceptions.
“I thought he did some good things for us,” Oldham said. “He’s not a freshman anymore. I hope he learns from this and comes back stronger.
“I’m proud of our kids. The only thing we didn’t do is win the game on the scoreboard. But we hit hard and played the best team in the state. We weren’t intimidated by them.”
CENTER GROVE 35, JEFFERSONVILLE 0
Jeffersonville 0 0 0 0— 0
Center Grove 7 14 0 14—35
CG — Justin Vetito 9 pass from Luke Calvert (Northern kick), 4:15.
CG — Lane Morris 5 run (Northern kick), :52.
CG — Vetito 19 pass from Calvert (Northern kick), :37.
CG — Max Norris 49 run (Northern kick), 5:54.
CG — Alex Aukerman 45 yard interception return (Northern kick), 4:48.
Jeffersonville: Cameron Northern 14-28-142-1.
Center Grove: Luke Calvert 7-14-84-1.
Jeffersonville: Austin Hines 14-59, Dionte Alen 9-67, Cameron Northern 5-24, Chris Campbell 1-3.
Center Grove: Logan Hutson 1-8, Max Norris 15-108, Lane Morris 12-64, Luke Calvert 3-8.
Jeffersonville: Hines 4-26, Allen 5-52, Isiah Blanton 4-67, Chris Campbell 2-25, Brandon Coleman 2-17.
Center Grove: Vetito 4-47, Devon Helmsley 1-37, Norris 2-1.