By SAM McGAW | Photos By DEB SCALLY
Ravenwood had Centennial on the ropes Friday, but they weren’t ready for the Cougars’ ground-and-pound attack.
Led by the trio of running backs Jariel Wilson, Tre Carlton and Azavian Pickens, the Cougars racked up 280 rushing yards en route to a 26-23 season-opening win on the road.
“They never quit fighting,” Centennial head coach Matt Kriesky said. “They could’ve given up in the first half, but they didn’t. They kept fighting, and that’s who we want to be. We never want to give up; we want to keep fighting no matter what the score is.”
Wilson, Carlton and Pickens each had a carry of 54-plus yards.
Calton’s 57-yard touchdown run gave Centennial (1-0, 1-0 Region 6-6A) the go-ahead 20-16 lead with 5:19 remaining in the third quarter.
“We went into halftime and said we have to work together and communicate, because we were all on different pages,” Carlton said. “We came back out and put it all together for the win.”
Ravenwood (0-1, 0-1 Region 6-6A) failed to convert on a pass on fourth-and-goal from the 4-yard line with eight minutes left.
Centennial went the length of the field in the ensuing drive, capping it off with a 19-yard touchdown pass from Tre Stewart to receiver Tavion Fleming for a 26-16 lead with 5:19 remaining.
Pickens set up the score with a 56-yard run and a face mask by Ravenwood.
“We talked about playing as one at halftime,” Stewart said. “It’s about as simple as it can be. We have a young o-line this year, and they came out and fought. When you go out there and play with your brothers, there’s nothing like it.”
Ravenwood blocked a punt and scored on a 15-yard touchdown pass from Brian Garcia to Kevin Nash to cut its deficit to three with 1:33 left in the game.
It was unable to get the ball back, however, as a face mask in the ensuing drive sealed the win for Centennial.
“We showed resiliency and we showed potential, but we just have to get over that hump,” Ravenwood first-year head coach Matt Daniels said. “These guys are young and we’re going to learn throughout the season. This might end up being the best thing that happened to us.”
The Raptors jumped out to a 10-0 lead in the opening frame with Nick Stallcup’s 68-yard touchdown pass to Andrew Mason and Sam French’s 22-yard field goal.
Just as Ravenwood found its groove, Carlton seized the momentum. His interception and return to the RHS 37 early in the second quarter put the Cougars within striking distance, and they capitalized.
Following a 35-yard run on a jet sweep by Fleming, Wilson plowed in for a 1-yard touchdown run to cut Centennial’s deficit to 10-7 with 6:51 left in the half.
“We were getting pretty confident, but then they started doing some different things and giving us different looks on defense,” Daniels said. “I think pressure was the biggest difference in the second half. They made us make quick decisions. Not that we weren’t ready for it, but we just made more mistakes than they did.”
Wilson gave the Cougars a 14-10 lead two minutes later when he recovered a loose ball in the end zone after a snap sailed over Ravenwood’s punter.
Stallcup pushed Ravenwood back ahead 16-14 with a 1-yard touchdown run with 20 seconds left in the half.
He finished with 165 passing yards and 74 rushing yards.
“For a first-year signal caller in Nick Stallcup, he did a heck of a job,” Daniels said. “He extended plays with his legs. He’s such a tough kid. He wants to will himself down the field every time.”