BY CORY WOODROOF
While some schools are getting into a midweek practice to prepare for Friday’s playoffs, the Centennial Cougars will have to bid farewell to old friends and seek ways to grow for the future.
The team’s last-second road loss Friday to the Brentwood Bruins kept the team from grabbing that fourth spot in the Region 6-6A playoffs and concluded its 3-7 season.
“All week, we treated this as a playoff game. We told the kids, ‘just leave it all on the field tonight,'” head coach Matt Kriesky said. “‘Leave everything you have on the field, and everything else will take care of itself.’ They did. They did everything that we asked them to do.”
The Cougars struggled once emerging junior quarterback Grayson Marcel went down with an injury. Freshman Cannon Plowman filled in for Marcel as he healed up, and the way his seniors reacted to this is something Kriesky said he doesn’t take for granted.
“Like I told them at the end, these seniors could’ve revolted and caused a lot of issues this year when we were playing four games with a freshman,” he said. “But they didn’t say a word. They fought for us. They did everything we asked them to do.
“That’s life. Everything’s not going to go your way at all times, and these guys are fighters. They’re going to be successful. At the end of the day, this is just high school football. It’s about teaching these guys the skills that will help them in life. These seniors are going to be very successful young men.”
Centennial great Jariel Wilson, a running back off to Austin Peay, made his final runs as a Cougar in Friday’s defeat.
“It means a lot,” Kriesky said for Wilson to have a big final night with the team before heads off to join the Govs next fall.
“He was Mr. Everything for us. He’s going to have a very successful career at Austin Peay. He’s going to have a huge impact, not only in football, but [on] the whole campus. His smile lights up the room. So I have no doubt in my mind he’ll have a successful college career, and whatever he decides to do after that.”
The Cougars did finish 2-3 in the district and are a big play or a big stop away from being 4-1 (the team got close to holding a lead against Ravenwood to start the year, and went down to the wire against Brentwood last Friday).
Kriesky said he’s excited about the future, particularly for a two-year stretch of schedules that he thinks will be a bit easier to navigate than where they’ve been the last two seasons.
“We’re a junior-heavy team,” Kriesky said, who notes they’ll return all but one offensive lineman next season (with senior Jacob Spears graduating). “The juniors got a lot of experience. We have some sophomores that had to play, also, so that’s part of it. We’re hoping the future’s bright.”