Centennial’s flag football team didn’t win a Northwest League title this season or even capture the league’s No. 2 seed for the region playoffs.
But the defending Clark County School District champions aren’t at all concerned about seeding, polls or numbers at this point. It’s a “new season,” and coach John Roberts insists his Bulldogs are ready to go.
Coming off one of Southern Nevada’s most grueling schedules, third-seeded Centennial (13-4) will begin its quest for a repeat when it meets Desert Oasis (12-6), the Southwest League’s No. 2 seed, in the Sunset Region quarterfinals at 4 p.m. Tuesday at Cimarron-Memorial High.
“The expectations are to win everything,” said Roberts, in his fifth season. “That was the plan when we started the season. And we haven’t changed any of our goals. … We’ve got the players. If they do what they need to do, we have the ability to win the next four games.”
Centennial, which defeated Foothill 25-20 in the CCSD final last season, has the talent and experience to do so.
The Bulldogs, ranked No. 3 in the latest coaches’ poll, have six letter winners back from a season ago and have shown perseverance by fighting through the toughest league in Southern Nevada — one that was still up for grabs until the final day of the regular season.
“We definitely wanted that one seed,” said Roberts, whose team lost to Cimarron in the regular-season finale on Thursday to fall into third place. “We were close and had it in our fingertips. … I didn’t realize our division was going to be this tough, to tell you the truth. We usually have a game or two, where we can get players some experience. But not this year.”
Led by senior captains Halli Erickson (2,631 yards passing, 28 touchdowns), LeNae Thomas (1,825 yards rushing, 23 TDs), Chantay Dixon (139 tackles, nine sacks) and Kayla Kipp-Nobles (120 tackles, eight sacks), the Bulldogs lost only three league games by a combined 13 points.
That is why, despite its seed, Centennial still is considered one of the favorites in the Sunset Region — even without star player Aliyah Wyrick, who went down with a hamstring injury on Jan. 3 and probably will miss the postseason, according to Roberts.
Fortunately for the Bulldogs, they’ve had enough time to find other weapons.
“(Wyrick’s injury) definitely slowed down the offense a little bit,” Roberts said. “She’s an amazing player. But the girls kept working. We were plugging them in to see who’d get the yards offensively, and the girls really stepped up.”
One of those players was impact sophomore Denae Benites, who has pulled down 16 TD receptions and a Southern Nevada-leading 17 interceptions.
Since his players already have overcome adversity this season, Roberts believes winning out of the third seed isn’t out of the question.
“It definitely comes down to focus,” Roberts said. “We need to focus in every aspect of the game. The girls are not going to be nervous. There’s no one we’re scared of. We’ve played so many tough teams.”
Contact reporter Ashton Ferguson at email@example.com or 702-383-0430. Follow @af_ferguson on Twitter.