Centennial entered its home game against Faith Lutheran on Friday confident it could win if it controlled the ball on the ground and kept the Crusaders’ potent offense off the field.
Instead, two of the Bulldogs’ first five offensive plays produced long touchdowns and Centennial gained a 23-16 victory to remain in the hunt for a playoff spot.
After Faith Lutheran (4-3, 2-3 Northwest League) fumbled on its first possession, Willie White ran 41 yards for a touchdown on the first play from scrimmage by the Bulldogs (5-3, 3-3).
“My line just got a big explosion, and I broke a tackle and broke it long,” White said.
Faith Lutheran struck back to take its only lead, getting a 24-yard field goal by Joe Portaro and a 1-yard touchdown plunge by Portaro after the Crusaders recovered a mishandled squib kick.
Then it was Taj Cole’s turn to answer for Centennial. The senior went 82 yards for a touchdown on the next play.
At the time, Faith Lutheran had run 29 plays to five by Centennial.
“We wanted to control the ball and keep their offense off the field. That was the game plan,” Centennial coach Leon Evans said. “But we were able to hit a couple long ones. We were striking early, and we just took it any way we could get it.”
With the lead, the Bulldogs were able to get back on script on the first drive of the second half. Centennial ran 10 times for 52 yards and used 6:51 before Nicolas Barilla extended the lead with a 26-yard field goal.
“That’s exactly what we wanted,” Evans said. “We would have liked to punch it in the zone there, but we came away with three points and that’s what we said — anytime we got the ball, we needed to put some kind of points on the board.”
Cole added a 55-yard touchdown run with 4:57 remaining.
“We thought if we could run the ball and keep their offense off the field, we could get the victory,” said Cole, who finished with 161 yards on 10 carries. “We stuck to our guns.”
White supplied 79 yards on 10 carries for the Bulldogs, who completed only one pass.
“Our offense is based on controlling the ball, but we’ve got big plays, too. The offensive line worked their butts off today,” White said.
The defense also limited the Crusaders to two touchdowns, though Portaro completed 26 of 37 passes for 214 yards
“They have a high-powered offense, and we said we’ve just got to do whatever it takes to keep them out of the (end) zone,” Evans said.
Portaro also passed for a touchdown, a 12-yarder to Brett Lubbe with 2:31 to play. But the Bulldogs recovered the onside kick and ran out the clock.
“We control our own destiny,” Evans said. “We told our kids we’re in a playoff game every week. We’ve got two left, and they’re both playoff games for us. If we want to be in the playoffs, we’ve just got to find a way to get it done these next two weeks.”