By SAM McGAW
Extreme Escape Games Game of the Week Preview
Brentwood (4-3, 3-1) at Centennial (6-1, 4-0), 7 p.m. Friday*
Both Brentwood head coach Ron Crawford and Centennial head coach Matt Kriesky used one word to describe this week’s matchup between their teams: Physical.
Centennial, which has won five straight contests, enters the league clash tied for first place in Region 7-5A. The Bruins, winners of three straight, are in fourth place.
“In games like this, it’s going to come down to which team is more physical, which team isn’t going to commit the turnovers and which team plays mistake-free football,” Kriesky said. “I think these are two evenly-matched teams. We know Brentwood is well-coached and they’re going to be where their supposed to be at all times.”
The Bruins, who have lost three straight games against their inner-county rival, need a win to keep their chances of hosting a playoff game alive.
“This is going to be a physical game versus a physical team,” Crawford stated. “We need to match their physicality. They’re certainly going to challenge us. We have to be able to strap it on both sides of the line of scrimmage and play real football by the nature of the way they play.”
Cougars’ Offense vs. Bruins’ Defense
If Brentwood’s defense is going to slow down Centennial, it has to win the battle in the trenches.
Led by running backs Zyon Lee (451 rush yds, 6 TDs) and Jariel Wilson (298 rush yds, 7 TDs), the Cougars average 192.71 rushing yards per game and 5.13 yards per carry.
“They’ve run the football at-will this year,” Crawford said. “I think all of their backs are very similar. They don’t look to go outside; they get their shoulder pads downhill. They’re all good football players and they play well within their scheme, and their offensive line is doing a great job creating some holes for them.”
Brentwood has held opponents to 3.5 yards per carry this season.
Linebackers Cj Grissim (67 tkls, 2 FR) and Will Stanworth (48 tkls, 2 FR, 1 INT) lead the front-seven.
“I think they’re very good up front,” Kriesky said. “They’re going to give us some challenges running the ball. We have to play assignment football and go where we’re supposed to go. We have to be able to run the ball. If we can’t do that, we’ll have a tough time.”
While the Cougars lean on their ground attack, they aren’t afraid to take shots downfield through the air.
Quarterback Tre Stewart (808 pass yds, 7 TDs, 4 INTs) averages 14.7 yards per completion.
His top weapons are wide receivers Austin Waddell (17 rec., 357 yds, 4 TDs) and Tavion Fleming (15 rec., 200 yds, 2 TDs).
The Bruins have been susceptible to giving up big plays throughout this season. Six touchdowns scored on them went for 46 yards or more, and three of those were for 80+ yards.
Bruins’ Offense vs. Cougars’ Defense
There’s a common theme for Brentwood this season.
In each of its four wins, it scored 41 points or more. In each of its three losses, it scored 20 points or less.
“I think where we’ve struggled this year is having ourselves ready to play, regardless of the opponent,” Crawford said. “We are a football team that still needs to grow, as far as mental toughness and physical toughness.”
The Bruins averaged 44.67 points and 335.33 total yards over their past three games.
Dual-threat quarterback Carson Shacklett spearheads the attack.
The junior has recorded 1,013 passing yards, 282 rushing yards, 17 touchdowns (8 run) and three interceptions this season.
“I’m impressed with their quarterback,” Kriesky said. “He does a great job managing the offense. You can tell he does everything he’s asked to do. He throws the ball well and he runs the ball well. We have to prepare for him in all areas.”
Shacklett’s top weapons are wide receivers Parker Bullion (37 rec., 386 yds, 2 TDs) and Will Leone (14 rec., 250 yds, 3 TDs) and tight end Christian LaBreche (18 rec., 280 yds, 3 TDs).
Running backs Collin Rudolph (317 rush yds, 1 TD) and Matthew Phillips (316 rush yds, 5 TDs) provide a one-two punch in the backfield.
While Brentwood’s offense has produced in recent games, it’s success came against struggling defenses.
Centennial is a completely different animal than what the Bruins have recently seen.
The unit has allowed one touchdown or less in four straight games.
“Athleticism is a strength of theirs, particularly on the back end,” Crawford said. “They’re going to control the box and challenge you to throw the football. We’ve seen that several times this year, so it’s on us to execute.”
Safety Senturian DuReaux is Centennial’s top playmaker on defense.
He has 54 tackles (7 for loss), three interceptions, three forced fumbles and a sack this season.
Linebackers Clay Carder and Tony Wall lead the front-seven.
Carder has 64 tackles (4 for loss), one sack and one interception, and Wall has 46 tackles (8 for loss), three sacks, one interception and forced fumble.
“Their two inside linebackers, (Wall) and (Carder) are really good high school football players,” Crawford stated. “They’re fun to watch on film. If our linemen and running backs don’t bring it to them, they will physically punish us.”
Sam McGaw is sports editor of Home Page Media Group. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @SamMcGawSports.