By ZACH HARMUTH | Photos by DOUG HOSLER
Who said sequels are never as good as the original?
Not the Centennial Cougars (10-1). The Region 7 champs, to follow up their great 2015 postseason, started their 2016 shot by bowling over Bolton 35-12 Friday night in the first round of the Class 5A playoffs.
The Cougars running game and dynamite defense cut the visiting Wildcats (5-6) – who finished fourth in Region 8 – out of the picture early on.
Senior running back Zyon Lee directed the Centennial offensive push with precision and power, recording 63 yards and three touchdowns on 13 carries.
Bolton, on offense, outgained Centennial 306 yards to 213, but committed five turnovers– three fumbles and two pick-sixes.
“I was a little afraid we were going to come out flat after a big emotional win last week,” coach Matt Kreisky said, referring to the Cougars de facto region title game against Henry County last week. “But the guys responded well after a good week of practice, and they get better each week.”
A Cougar turnover gave the Wildcats an early lead.
On a hook-and-ladder attempt on their first possession deep in their own territory, the Cougars fumbled. Bolton took over from the 10 and quickly scored on a Ryan Bevel run to take a 6-0 lead a few minutes into the first quarter.
But after that, Centennial was basically flawless.
Lee, carrying the Cougars downfield with help from fellow running back Jariel Wilson, gave the them a 7-6 lead on a six-yard touchdown run just before the end of the first.
After a quick Bolton punt, Centennial, again moving downfield with lots of Lee, scored again on a 1-yard Lee run, his second, with 11:30 left in the half to make it 14-6.
The Wildcats, with quarterback Ryan Bevel making some good runs, got to the Cougar 23-yard line on the next drive.
There, Bevel backed up and threw a rainbow to the right pylon.
Unfortunately for Bolton, cornerback Devious Christmon was at the end of it, and he ran 75-yards to score for a 21-6 advantage with about 5:00 left in the half.
Another Wildcat miscue on their next possession put the game effectively out of reach. Lining up to punt at their own 10, the snap ended up on the ground. Wilson jumped on it, and 10 yards and four downs later, Lee plunged in for his third score and a 28-6 lead with less than a minute left in the half.
“My offensive line really did a good job of creating spaces,” Lee said. “I’m just excited about the win and to move on.”
After the intermission, the Cougars might as well have started rolling the credits.
On the first Bolton possession of the second half, Bevel threw another pick-six, this time Tony Hall ran it back to score on a 46-yard return with 8:40 left.
Centennial welcomes Henry County for a second-round rematch next Friday.