By JIM WOJCIECHOWSKIThe Centennial Cougars put a challenging day at school behind them with a convincing 31-14 victory Friday night at Overton. Centennial rolled to a 24-7 halftime lead and then sealed the win with a late touchdown in its season opener. Centennial was ready to celebrate – the players, the coaches, the fans.
The Cougars put a challenging day at school behind them with a convincing 31-14 victory Friday night at Overton. Centennial rolled to a 24-7 halftime lead and then sealed the win with a late touchdown in its season opener.
The football team lifted the school’s spirits on a day in which boys varsity basketball coach Darren Henrie was charged with three counts of sexual battery by an authority figure. After the game, Cougars coach Brian Rector had the players applaud the large turnout of Centennial fans and share the moment.
“(Rector) said in the face of darkness we gave them a light,” said senior running back Scottie Fleming. “Our school is going through some things right now and for us to get this win on the same day is just amazing. It just proves that nothing can hold us back.”
There was no holding back the Cougars in the first half. They outgained the Bobcats 194-27 in total yardage, limiting them to three first downs. Touchdown runs by Deon Sanders and Fleming gave the Cougars a 17-0 lead with 6:07 to play in the second quarter.
Centennial 10 14 0 7 _ 31
Centennial gave up a 95-yard kickoff return to see its lead slip to 17-7, but the Cougars’ Dusty Lee answered with a 73-yard punt return for a score late in the second quarter to set the halftime score.
“That was about as efficient as we’ve ever been in a first game,” Rector said.
Fleming led the way with 119 yards and two touchdowns.
“I owe it all to the line,” Fleming said. “The guys just put it out there for me and I just took it.”
“That’s what we expect out of Scottie,” Rector said. “He can be explosive, but what people don’t understand is in a football game, those 6-yard runs are a heck of a lot more important if you get 10 or 12 of them than if you get one 50-yard run.
“We control the clock that way and we become efficient on offense.”
Senior quarterback J.J. Tomlin passed for 153 yards and four Centennial receivers caught at least three passes, led by Emanuel Hall’s four catches for 48 yards.
Nick Madonia opened the scoring with a 24-yard field goal in the first quarter, and then the Cougars put together long drives and scored touchdowns on their next two possessions to take charge.
“If we can run them down and then hit them with a deep pass, or even a short pass, that’s just perfect because they’ll wear down real easy,” Fleming said.
Overton hit a couple of big plays and scored on its first series of the second half to cut the deficit to 24-14 on Willis Word’s one-yard run.
The Cougars lost a fumble on their next possession and then had a drive stalled by penalties. In all, Centennial finished with 11 penalties.
Centennial capitalized on a muffed punt to set up its final score. The Cougars recovered at the Overton 7-yard line, and two plays later Fleming darted around left end for a 31-14 lead with 6:13 to play.
Prior to addressing the team afterward, Rector encouraged the players to pay tribute to the fans.
“The fans of this school, it’s kind of like anything else, when you give them something to cheer about they’re going to support you like crazy,” Rector said. “I feel like that’s what the kids did with their effort. Regardless of the mistakes or the things of that nature, it seemed like our effort was very good and I think the fan base appreciated that.
“I can’t tell you how much that we as a team and a coaching staff appreciate them coming out in force tonight.”