Led by sophomore Denae Benites, the Centennial flag football team controlled the momentum for a full 60 minutes Wednesday night as they defeated Shadow Ridge 32-8 at home.
The Bulldogs’ strong offensive showing was helped by five turnovers on defense, including three interceptions from Benites who stood out on both sides of the ball. She also had three receiving touchdowns and 172 yards.
“She’s a real ball hawk at free safety, probably the first real one I’ve seen in the five years coaching here,” coach John Roberts said. “She catches everything. And we’re really lucky we actually weren’t even going to have her on varsity this year.”
The decision was made to bring Benites up to varsity after a scrimmage game with the junior varsity team where she shut down the team’s best receiver. Her interceptions Wednesday gave her 12 on the season.
“I’ve been working with my dad since I was a little kid catching the ball,” Benites said. “And I play baseball with the guys so I’ve been catching everything.”
The Bulldogs (10-1, 4-0 Northwest League) owned a 19-0 lead at halftime but coaches urged their players not to let up too soon after the performance on offense the last few weeks.
“We played Palo Verde a couple weeks ago and we were up 12-0 at halftime and they came back and almost beat us,” Roberts said.
During halftime Centennial coaches pointed to the scoreboard and told their players to keep up the pressure. The Bulldogs continued to control the game on both offense and defense scoring 13 more points in the second half, while only allowing one Shadow Ridge (14-4, 1-3) score.
“We haven’t been putting up many points in the second half so that was one of our main goals tonight,” Roberts said. “We wanted to keep our foot on the gas the whole way through the game, and we did tonight.”
The Bulldogs now sit on top of the Northwest League and are the only team in the league with perfect division record. That record is on the line with a test coming next Tuesday in a visit to Cimarron-Memorial in a matchup of the top teams in the division. Cimarron-Memorial was undefeated until their 46-27 loss to Palo Verde Wednesday night.