Story and Photos By ANDREW DYRDAL
Centennial scored two late touchdowns to edge out Independence at home Thursday night.
Michael Jordan had his iconic “flu game,” and now Deon Sanders has had his.
The Centennial senior running back overcame flu-like symptoms Thursday night to lead the Cougars to a 49-38 come-from-behind home victory over Independence.
Sanders carried the ball 33 times for 191 yards and two touchdowns despite having to be helped to the team’s huddle following the game.
“I feel like I have the flu right now,” Sanders said before heading to the locker room. “Battling that and coming out with the win after being down was just really special. It was something beautiful.”
When asked if this was his “flu game,” Sanders said: “Being like Jordan? I don’t think I can match that.”
Sanders lost a fumble in the first quarter as Centennial fell into an 18-7 deficit.
The Eagles scored three quick touchdowns to start the game, but missed an extra point and a pair of two-point conversions.
The missed extra points came back to haunt them in the fourth quarter — they were down by two scores instead of one on their final drive, despite scoring as many touchdowns as CHS.
Centennial’s Tyrel Dodson scored twice in the first quarter, including on a 93-yard run.
He finished the night with seven carries for 162 yards and two touchdowns.
A Centennial field goal in the second briefly tied the game at 18 before Indy quarterback Andrew Bunch scored on a 34-yard run and then threw a screen pass to Dom Childress that went for 73 yards.
Childress closed out with 153 rushing yards, 112 receiving yards and three touchdowns.
Centennial trailed 32-21 at the half, but surrendered just six points in the second.
“Our defense was much maligned in the first half,” Centennial coach Brian Rector said. “They went through us like water.
“In the second half it was a much different story and that’s what it needed to be. We didn’t do anything different — it was pure emotion. It was heart and it was effort.”
Two key defense plays came in the fourth quarter with Centennial leading by four.
Independence had first-and-goal from the 1-yard-line and multiple offsides penalty brought them within a blade of grass of the goal line. A false start then brought Indy back to the 5, and Centennial held the Eagles out of the end zone on four consecutive plays to force a turnover on downs.
Centennial went three-and-out on the ensuing possession, but Dodson caught an interception on Independence’s next play to seal the win.
“For them to come out and play as hard as they did after being down two scores, I just told them it was inspirational,” Rector said.