STORY BY CORY WOODROOF | PHOTOS BY DEB SCALLY
The Centennial Cougars stared a potential 0-3 home record in the face when the Independence Eagles flew into Cool Springs Friday night.
The Eagles’ dangerous offensive trio of Nathan Cisco, T.J. Sheffield and Isaiah Collier proved too much for Summit the week before. Would they prove too much for the Cougars in this district faceoff?
Well, all three of those guys certainly had good nights, but Centennial had QB Grayson Marcel, WR Ahsharri Haynesworth and WR Joey Gustafson. And that Centennial offensive line.
Oh, and somebody named RB Jariel “Wowo” Wilson.
That made the difference and got the Cougars the win.
“It’s all good, man,” Wilson said of his four-touchdown night, crediting his offensive line, his defense and everyone else on his team for their turnaround win. “[It’s] being around great people. They cause great things.”
The Cougars rode their offensive quartet to a 62-40 win over the visiting Eagles, notching their first win of the season and evening out their district record to 1-1.
They also avoid the 0-3 hole and can feel more confidently about going forward on their schedule.
“We really didn’t talk about it [this week],” Centennial head coach Matt Kriesky said about the potential to drop the first three in front of the home crowd. “We didn’t want the kids to think about it. I love this group. They’re fun to coach.”
To Kriesky, it was just a matter of getting the ball over the hill once for his team to get what it needed to get 2018 underway.
“I felt like if we just get one under our belt [and] get these kids some self-confidence, [then we’d be set],” Kreisky said.
To Marcel, the stakes were obvious.
“You do not want to lose your home,” Marcel said. “It’s like, if you can’t win at home, how else are you supposed to win? We had to protect our home tonight.”
“We didn’t let the scoreboard define our season,” Wilson said. “We didn’t let us phase us much.”
To start things off, Indy looked like it would build on last week’s big offensive downpour with a touchdown for RB Colby Logan. But, Centennial would answer in quick fashion with a Marcel dart to Haynesworth in tight coverage to even things out.
It would go on like this for the entire first half.
Sheffield scored a touchdown, then Haynesworth got his second. 14-14. Sheffield punt return for touchdown, Wilson runs it in from short. 21-21. Then, Logan gets his second, and then Wilson gets his second. 28-28. Sheffield’s third touchdown of the night, 34-28. 34? The Cougars blocking the extra point. Halftime. Indy ahead. Fireworks.
Imagine that sweet elderly lady in the old Wendy’s commercials. Where’s the defense?
Well, it showed up after the break, with Logan picking Marcel off in Centennial territory to set up the dangerous Eagles offense early in the third. But, Centennial held. Then, that missed point began to sink in for Indy, with Cougar Johnny Crouch’s 87-yard run for six got the home team out in front 35-34.
Then at the third’s halfway point, Indy reclaimed the lead with Sheffield’s fourth touchdown of the night, but the team botched the 2-point conversion. Marcel then connected with Haynesworth for the third time on the evening on a long ball to get Centennial the 41-40 lead before the close of the third.
The Cougars would never look back. Wilson’s third touchdown made it 48-40, then Wilson’s fourth touchdown (a 73-yard jolt) made it 55-40. Indy tried to spark something more, but a Centennial pick-six closed it out. The home team avoided the home sweep and gets its first victory of 2018.
“It’s crazy looking at the scoreboard right now,” Marcel said post-game as the bright numbers “62” shined over his shoulder.
Kriesky credits his secondary for helping tighten up on Indy’s top two targets in the second half, which in part took away the Eagles’ momentum.
“You have to look for Collier, you have to look for Sheffield, every play, [you’ve] got to know where they are,” Kriesky said. “I was really impressed with both of my corners, Dave Amos and Kevin Townsel. They played a heck of a game, defensively. Sheffield and Collier are probably two of the best guys in this league.”
“We told the defense, ‘hey, if we get stops, we’re going to score,’” Wilson said.
Wilson and Haynesworth had seven touchdowns between the two of them, a statement night for both guys.
For Indy head coach Scott Blade, the tackling’s got to improve for his defense if they’re to supplant the work their offense can do each week.
“We didn’t rise to the challenge, obviously,” Blade said. “We’ve got to tackle better, a lot better than what we did. That’s the name of the game. Tackling is an attitude. Work on the fundamentals all you want, but if you don’t have the right attitude, then things go south.”
From here, Centennial (1-2) will head out to Cane Ridge next Friday, while Independence (1-2) will host Hillsboro.
Below is a slideshow of photos by photographer Deb Scally.
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