Centennial High School is one of the newer secondary schools in the Williamson County Schools district, having played its first year of football in 1997.
The 2016 fall season, in fact, is the Cougar’s 20th. So far, at 5-1, they are on pace to tie their best-ever record, which they set last year, going 12-2 and only losing to one team- Independence, twice.
“Last year certainly was the best year ever in CHS football history for the record and advancement in the playoffs,” said former Coach Brian Rector. “What makes the experience special to me as a former coach, from a holistic standpoint, was how we were able to transform the energy, look and perception of the school. It was obviously down when we arrived and so many great people chipped in and chipped away at a myriad of issues to bring our athletics, academics and environment to an incredible standard. We had such a great time working so hard to change the culture and that is what I, personally, take away and remember the most about that experience. At its base it was about raising standards and, over time, watching people reach high and achieve.”
That is a far, far cry from 1997, when in their inaugural season the Cougars crawled to a 1-9 record under a first-time coach. In fact, Centennial won more games last season than it did in its first five seasons, so it was a slow start for sure.
The team’s first winning season- and first playoff appearance- was in 2002, the third year of Greg Gregory’s seven as head coach. (1999-2006).
They made it through the 2002 season with a strong defense- they allowed just more than 16 points per game, and got off to a 4-1 start, beating Warren County, Spring Hill, Page and Father Ryan. Later in the season, in the second last week of October, they beat Henry County 45-17, putting up the most points in school history. Gallatin, however, in the playoffs had different ideas, and they ended the Cougars’ best season to date with a 24-14 win in the first round.
Centennial followed its first-ever playoff appearance with its first-ever playoff win the next year, in the 2003-2004 season. Though they went 5-5 in the regular season, they also played a much, much tougher schedule- they faced perennial powerhouses in Brentwood Academy, Battle Ground Academy and Pearl-Cohn in non-district games, coming away with a win against Pearl-Cohn.
Come November and the playoffs, the Cougars faced Antioch in the first round, winning 24-19.
In the regional round, they faced Hendersonville, and almost pulled off the upset, losing 25-24.
It would be five more years before Centennial came back to the playoffs, in the second season of new coach Mark Matykiewicz- who took over in 2007 after Gregory resigned.
Matykiewicz ushered the Cougars to a 7-3 season- their third winning season in school history- and in the first round of the postseason they avenged their loss in 2002 against Gallatin with a 20-6 win. However, in the second round they faced Brentwood- a team they historically could not beat. In 11 years, the Cougars lost to the Bruins 11 times. When they faced them for the second time in 2008, nothing changed, and they got knocked out of the second round of the playoffs in a 21-7 loss. In fact, Brentwood came out on top in the Cougar’s first 17 meetings with them. But the tables turned in 2013, and since then in their last three meetings Centennial won. Still, all-time the Bruins hold 17-3 record all time against CHS.
After 1-9 and 2-8 seasons in 2009 and 2010, Brian Rector replaced Matykiewicz as head coach- and for the first time in school history, the Cougars saw sustained success. In Rector’s five years as coach (he resigned and now coaches at Father Ryan), CHS made the playoffs four times, and in 2015 made it to the Class 5A semifinals- the deepest playoff run in school history.
Independence during the past two years has emerged as the Cougars’ biggest rival and biggest obstacle to a state championship.
Like against Brentwood, the Cougars historically haven’t had much luck versus Independence, losing 9 of 13 all-time and 6 of the last 7. As mentioned above, last year the only team the Cougars lost to was the Eagles, in their early-September meeting and in the state semifinals. The same thing so far has happened in 2016, with Centennial’s only loss so far, under first-year coach Matt Kreisky, against the Eagles.