By ZACH HARMUTH
With four seconds left on the clock, the game tied at 21 at Centennial, Brentwood kicker Tucker Day walked on the field to attempt a 35-yard field goal to send his team to the Class 5A state semifinals.
He had missed a tiebreaker a few plays earlier, knocking a kick off the right goal post from 55 yards.
As the clock hit zero, his kick went straight down the middle. The Bruins (9-4) beat the Cougars 24-21 to advance to the semifinals, when they will welcome undefeated Independence to BHS.
“It is one of the best feelings ever, I love my team, I love my coaches,” said Day, who’s a U.S. Army All-American Bowl selection.
If not for CJ Grissim’s interception of Tre Stewart at the 18-yard line with just more than a minute to play, Day never would have had that chance. The interception came after his miss from 55 yards.
“It was the most exhilarating moment of my life,” Day said. “I knew from that moment I was about to go hit a game-winning kick.”
The game wouldn’t have even been so close if not for a comeback in the second half from Centennial (11-2), which trailed 13-0 as late as five minutes left in the third quarter.
After struggling through more than two and a half quarters, the Cougars broke out behind their running game. The Bruins held the powerful ground game of Centennial in check most, but not all, of the night. The Cougars gained 248 yards on the ground, almost all of which came in the second half.
Jariel Wilson’s 52-yard touchdown run with 5:13 left in the third quarter, followed by a 17-yard touchdown run by Zyon Lee a few minutes later, put Centennial up 14-13 at the start of the fourth. Wilson finished with 13 carries for 102 yards and two TDs; Lee finished with 24 carries for 118 yards and a TD.
But a Cougar miscue – a muffed punt – set up Brentwood with first-and-goal from the 4. Quarterback Kaden Dreier, who started in relief for an injured Carson Shacklett, kept it and scampered up the middle for a 21-14 lead.
Dreier finished with 147 passing yards, 56 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns.
Centennial responded with a big pass to Jim Cheek that set up Wilson with a 4-yard score with six minutes left in the game, tying things at 21.
The Bruins’ ensuing drive led to a fourth-and-8 from the 38. In a situation where most teams punt, they elected to try a 55-yard field goal. It had the distance, but drifted right and hit the right post, falling no good.
“It felt good, and it went straight, but the wind may have made it break right,” Day said.
With a little less than two minutes left and in decent field position with three timeouts remaining, the Cougars took over with the score still tied.
Stewart, who finished 4-of-11 for 70 yards passing, went back to throw it and Grissim jumped in front of his pass. A few runs and a couple of icing timeouts from Centennial set up Day for the redemption, his third field goal of the night.
Brentwood was able to hold on, but the Cougars got back into the game because of their rushing attack.
“We were struggling stopping them in the second half,” Brentwood head coach Ron Crawford said. “When they put their tight end in, they started running. We just had some guys make some plays.
“The interception gave us new life, because we were headed to overtime. Our kids just really, really battled and fought. So did Centennial. They did what they do best – run it. We couldn’t stop them last time we played them, but tonight we stopped them just enough.”
The win advances Brentwood to the Class 5A semifinals, where it will play undefeated Independence at home next week. The Bruins were defeated by the Eagles by a point to open the regular season.
Day, whose missed extra point made the difference in the Bruins’ 21-20 loss at Independence, fittingly got to be the one who set his team up for a rematch for a ticket to the state championship.