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Warriors (from left) David Bell, Christian Hastings, Jayden George and Romeir Elliott are part of a talented and motivated senior class seeking the program’s first state title since 2013. (Photo via Warren Central Athletics Twitter)

It’d be tough to overstate the challenge Class 6A No. 1 Warren Central overcame last Friday night.

Warren traveled 120 miles to 25-time state champion Louisville Trinity, which won an epic 42-41 decision on the Warriors’ home field last year. En route, one of the busses broke down, and part of the team didn’t arrive until 10 minutes before they were to take the field. After digging a 21-0 hole, Warren battled back for its own 42-41 triumph.

“If you come out and don’t take care of the little things, they’ll add up on you quick, and that’s what happened,” Warren coach Jayson West said. “I’m proud of how the guys responded, that’s for sure.”

Because of the competitive nature of the series, the schools extended it for two more years.

“It’s a great game, a different type of school in a different state, the same type of culture, and like us, they strive to play the game at a high level and do it the right way,” West said. “It’s such a great place to play, a lot of fun.”

Quarterback Jayden George connected with wide receiver David Bell for the go-ahead score with a minute left. George, Bell and the team’s other seniors showed the poise the group is known for.

“They were great kids when we got them, and they’re great young men now,” West said. “They really care about each other, they’re a fun group, they love to stay after practice and play Uno in the locker room. I really enjoy them.”

Bell (10 catches, 180 yards, two TDs this season), one of the nation’s top wideout recruits, perpetually impresses with his approach on and off the field.

“He’s a four-year starter, an elite player who’s made a name for himself, but you’d never know that talking to him,” West said. “He goes about his business like a professional and has done a wonderful job.”

After sharing carries the past two seasons, senior Romeir Elliott (382 rushing yards, 10.9 avg., four TDs) is a motivated workhorse in the backfield.

“It’s hard to start at Warren, and he played some as a sophomore, a lot last year and now it’s his position and his time,” West said. “Like always, there’s also some other guys right there chomping at the bit to play, which is good.”

George (25-of-47, 489 yards, five TDs), who dealt with numerous injuries last fall, is at full strength and improving each day.

“He’s a tough kid who’s been through a lot,” West said. “You need time on the field to get better, and every game he’s out there, that’s what he does. He works hard at it, and loves being a Warrior.”

Unfortunately, Warren lost offensive lineman and Iowa commit Justin Britt for the season to a knee injury last week. Zack Ransdell and the rest of the line will fight on with their teammate in mind.

“We’re not real big on the line, so obviously we’ll miss Justin there, but we’ll really miss his leadership on the field,” West said. “But, we’ve made him a coach now. I’m giving him a whistle, he’ll help us there and he’ll do great things at Iowa.”

There are plenty of playmakers on defense, including leading tackler and junior Randy Wells Jr. and seniors Calum Carruthers, Kavie Minor, Maleek Mile and Indiana State commit Christian Hastings.

“Right now, it’s such a team defense. Nobody’s out there playing great, and I think that’s usually what makes good defenses,” West said. “It isn’t a big bunch that jumps off the screen at you, but they’re physical, strong and move well, so I’m excited to see how they develop.”

For the next six weeks, Warren will tackle the ever-tough Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference schedule. This week’s test – unbeaten and No. 8 North Central, a program trying to take that next step under second-year coach Kevin O’Shea.

“They’re well-coached and I really like their quarterback (Liam Thompson). He throws it well, he’s a confident kid,” West said. “They’re really big up front, so I’m concerned about that, and with some of our kids banged up, we have our work cut out for us.”