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Reigning two-time state champion East Central football team awaits new challenge

Last Updated 1 week by Amnon J. Jobi | Amnon Front Page

East Central football coach Jake Meiners knew at some point he had to conclude a chapter on what was quite a remarkable two-year state championship journey. But, it wasnt an easy task this past December.

You win a state championship; you really want to celebrate that group, Meiners said. But, as a head coach youre starting to prepare for the next year in December. And you got to turn that page really quickly. Trying to figure where all the pieces are going to fit and who needs to go where and when were going to practice and what we need to practice all that sort of stuff.

The Trojans (15-0 in 2023), the reigning two-time Class 4A state champions, graduated 16 seniors from last years undefeated team. It was a season in which the Trojans earned seven shutouts and outscored opponents 740-97. The Trojans led the state of Indiana with an average of 49.3 points per game. The defense allowed the second-lowest total in the state at 6.5 points per game.

The message to the players is always the same, Meiners said. Were going to try to put the best product we can on a Friday night. Were going to compete like crazy. And try to limit our mistakes. Try to give yourself the best opportunity to win.

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East Central moves up to Class 5A this season due to the Indiana High School Athletic Associations success factor. That means East Central competes against programs with larger school enrollments.

Everything in life you really want the next challenge, Meiners said. And you really want to keep going out and trying to exceed expectations. Weve competed at the 4A level, have had a lot of success. Now, this is a new environment, a new challenge for our guys. We know we have to build depth a little bit more going against some larger schools. And really put a lot more stock as a coaching staff building that depth.

Sophomore running back Ryan Minges said the move to Class 5A is something the team is looking forward to as it prepares for the season opener against Lawrenceburg Aug. 23. The regular season schedule remains the same but the Trojans will compete in the Class 5A postseason.

Its definitely going to be harder competition but I think we got it, Minges said. Its just new teams that we havent seen before. So we just got to get ready.

Minges is expected to carry a significant role in the backfield this season with the graduation of 2023 Indiana Mr. Football recipient Josh Ringer, who is now at Miami University.

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Josh taught me a lot, Minges said. Hes a really good D-I athlete so he taught me some of the basics and some of the harder stuff.

Minges rushed for 411 yards and four touchdowns as a freshman last season.

Ryan had a great season for us last year, Meiners said. He probably couldve got a little bit more carries here and there but when you have a back like Josh Ringer hes obviously going to take a majority of the carries. Ryan was able to get in last year, really take some carries, play some valuable minutes for us had a heck of a state championship game as a freshman. But, he knows that its his time that hes got to take that next step and become a leader and I think thats what hes really done.

Three starters return on offense and three starters on defense for the Trojans this year.

Three offensive linemen return including sophomore Noah Brown, senior Wyatt Smith and junior Gavin Osterman.

“We’ve had a great offensive line competition,” Meiners said. “We probably have five or six guys right now battling it out for two spots.”

Senior defensive linemen Braden Becknell and Brendin Kolter have had solid offseasons. Senior outside linebacker Cole Sebastian and senior defensive back Carson Pieczonka, a two-year starter, return. Senior linebacker Alex Kuhn played significant minutes and has had a really good offseason, Meiners said. Senior kicker Nathan McFee also returns.

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Meiners said the Trojans have a hunger to succeed at a significant level despite several new names in starting positions.

I think with this group some of those expectations outside our program might be that were not going to be as good and that sort of stuff, Meiners said. Thats the challenge to me. Believe in yourself and believe what we have here. Believe in this program and good things will happen. So thats really what I like is when people might not expect you to be very good and then you can kind of go out and exceed expectations so thats the goal this year. Thats the hope of this group and Im really excited to see what this group can do.

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