It certainly was a tale of two halves for Centennial on Friday night in its Southwest League opener at Bonanza.
In the first half, the Bulldogs ran only 16 plays and trailed by one point.
However, in the final two periods, Centennial kept the football for more than 17 minutes and found the end zone with just over nine minutes remaining to earn a 16-14 victory.
The Bulldogs (2-3, 1-0 Southwest) only scored one offensive touchdown on Coll Thomson’s 11-yard pass to Josh Gray with 9:07 left, and Centennial led 16-7.
But Bonanza answered quickly, as Jayveon Taylor took the ensuing kick 96 yards for a touchdown, and the Bengals were within two.
“We certainly made some plays late in the game,” Centennial coach Leon Evans said. “But it was an ugly win. I told the team that an ugly win was better than a pretty loss any day of the week.”
It appeared the Bengals (3-2, 0-1) would have one final shot as Centennial faced a second-and-9 from its own 30-yard line with just over three minutes left. The Bulldogs were called for holding, and Bonanza accepted the penalty. Instead of a third-and-8 situation, Centennial faced second-and-19, but Thomson scrambled for the first down and the Bulldogs ran out the clock.
“We simply can’t make the mistakes we did in the first half,” said Evans, whose team had only 104 total yards and seven penalties in the first two quarters. “Yes, we did earn the victory, but we kept shooting ourselves in the foot in the first half. We played much better after halftime.”
Bonanza had the ball for 16:42 of the opening half but managed just a 6-yard touchdown pass from Tyler Penkalski to Carlos Soto. It was Centennial kicker Zach Mays who kept the Bulldogs close, with field goals of 45 and 44 yards.
But after intermission, the Bulldogs won the ball-control battle and held the Bengals to 39 total yards.
Lantz Worthington rushed for 97 yards on 15 carries for Centennial, while Thomson added 68 yards.
Penkalski completed 13-of-23 passes for 218 yards for Bonanza, while Taylor grabbed four passes for 110 yards.