Bulldog defense overcomes, locks down Gators in second half of win

Knowing how young his team is, Centennial coach Leon Evans continues to talk to the Bulldogs about overcoming adversity.

His message: keep playing hard and doing the things they work on in practice.

Centennial should use its second-half performance at Green Valley as proof of Evans’ sentiments.

The No. 10 Bulldogs dominated the Gators in the final two quarters, holding Green Valley to 59 total yards, in a 19-13 victory Friday night.

Trailing by six at halftime, the Bulldogs (2-0) scored touchdowns on two of their first three possessions after the break and kept the football for more than 17 minutes.

“We have been known to get our heads down if things don’t go our way,” Evans said. “However, tonight we talked about staying in the fight and they responded. It feels really good to be 2-0 and it’s certainly a long time coming.”

It was Centennial’s ground attack that eventually wore down the Gators (0-2), with the Bulldogs gaining 195 yards on the ground after halftime.

Centennial tied the game on Willie White’s 2-yard run at the 10:44 mark of the third quarter, then grabbed its first lead of the night on Cody Clark’s 55-yard strike to Najeem Popal with about three minutes remaining in the period.

From there, the game was in the hands of the Bulldog defense, which flexed its muscle after allowing 135 yards on the ground in the first half.

“Our defense was great in the second half,” said Evans, whose unit held the Gators to nine rushing yards after halftime. “We made some adjustments and kept them from having cutback lanes. Overall, it was a great effort by our entire football team.”

Green Valley’s Aaron Love, who led the Gators with 129 yards on 16 carries, opened the scoring on a 1-yard run with nearly five minutes left in the first quarter. Centennial answered on the first play after the kickoff, when Taj Cole raced 73 yards downfield for the TD, and the Bulldogs tied the game at 7-7. Cole compiled 165 yards on 18 carries to help the Bulldogs to 443 yards of total offense.

Less than a minute later, Love found paydirt again, cruising 67 yards, and the Gators took a 13-7 lead. Green Valley gained 213 yards in the opening period, but managed only 68 in the final three quarters.