Centennial, Desert Oasis eager for Sunset sequel

Sometimes, the high school football playoffs bring a sequel, the repeat of a matchup that was good enough to make you want to watch again.

The players and coaches at Desert Oasis are hoping that Bulldogs-Diamondbacks II has a little different ending.

Centennial plays at Desert Oasis at 7 tonight, marking the second straight year the teams have met in the first round of the Sunset Region playoffs. The Bulldogs pulled off a 16-12 road win last season.

“Hopefully, history doesn’t repeat itself and we come out and beat Centennial this time,” Diamondbacks senior linebacker Kyle Henry said. “It’s going to be a really tough game, but we can pull through.”

The teams have followed similar scripts in reaching this point. Centennial (6-3) dropped its first three games before starting a six-game winning streak to earn the Northwest League’s No. 3 playoff seed.
Desert Oasis (7-2) lost its first two games before winning seven straight to get the Southwest’s No. 2 seed.

The script also has resembled last year’s run for the Diamondbacks, who lost an early non-league game and a league contest to Bishop Gorman each season.

“It’s kind of deja vu again,” Desert Oasis coach Scott Staudinger said. “Looking over the rosters, ours didn’t have much turnover, and theirs didn’t have much turnover, so I would expect another good, close game.”

Staudinger said many of his players immediately brought up last year’s loss to Centennial when they found out they would be hosting the Bulldogs again.

“This is great,” junior running back Devin Fortenberry said. “It gives us a chance to prove what we’re really about and let them know that coming here is not going to be easy.”

Things haven’t been easy for the Diamondbacks’ last seven opponents. Desert Oasis has averaged 42.4 points during its win streak, and hasn’t allowed a team to score more than 17 in a game.

Part of the reason for the surge has been the emergence of junior quarterback Herman Smith.

“He’s been huge, and he hasn’t played since early on in his freshman year,” Staudinger said. “He’s starting to get more and more comfortable back there.”

Smith has passed for 767 yards and 11 touchdowns, and has allowed the Diamondbacks to become a more balanced team as the season has worn on.

“We’ve been able to expand the playbook a little bit offensively,” Staudinger said. “At first we were limited in what we were doing throwing the ball, and now we’re able to throw the football better while still being able to run it.”

Desert Oasis has been strong on both sides of the ball down the stretch, but Centennial figures to test the Diamondbacks defensively.

The Bulldogs have done a good job controlling the ball with running back Jacobi Owens (1,227 rushing yards, 12 TDs) and an efficient passing game led by quarterback Austin Turley (1,012 passing yards).

“They’re just a hard, pound-it, smash-the-rock-at-you team,” Staudinger said. “They’re big and physical up front, and Owens runs the ball extremely hard. And their quarterback can throw it, a really skilled passer. There’s a lot of challenges defensively for us.”

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