When two teams the caliber of Centennial and Hamilton take the field against one another, it's not difficult to know what's on the line. Since 2003 these two programs have combined for five state titles, a pair of runner-up finishes, and a "who's who" list of prep stars that could rival many All-State compilations. When teams like the Coyotes and Huskies face-off nothing short of an exceptional matchup is expected.
Centennial would strike first on an eight-play drive to open the game, showcasing a diverse offensive attack (seven different players would carry the ball on this series) in moving down to the Hamilton 15-yard line. A Coyote fumble would be recovered by TE/LB Reggie Umuolo and ran in for a 7-0 Centennial lead. After Centennial's defense forced Hamilton to punt on their ensuing possession standout back John Hughes would sprint in for a 33-yard score to push the Centennial lead to 14-0.
After each team saw second quarter drives stall Hamilton would get on the board, spearheaded by a long catch-and-run by WR Drew Terrell to the Centennial three. The Coyote defense would hold from there, and a false start on fourth down forced the Huskies to settle for the short field goal to close the gap to 14-3.
Hamilton would continue to experience offensive success through the air into the third quarter, scoring from three-yards out and closing to within a touchdown. While the Centennial offense would bog down throughout the quarter, their defense would play well enough to keep Hamilton from advancing any closer. The score would stand at 14-10 going into the final quarter.
Centennial's initial possession of the quarter would take a dramatic turn on a Ryan Shauger punt, with Terrell bobbling the return and the Coyotes recovering deep in Hamilton territory. Hughes would punch in his second score of the night to give Centennial a bit of breathing room at 21-10 with six minutes left.
Hamilton would continue to scratch their way back though, driving inside the Centennial five-yard line on their ensuing drive. The Coyote defense would again hold tough, as the Huskies would turnover the ball on downs inside the Centennial one-yard line.
They would not have the ball for long, as a three-yard sneak by QB Dain McFarland on the next play would result in a turnover when the officials ruled that McFarland fumbled. A quick strike by Hambsch would close the gap to 21-16, with the ensuing two-point attempt stopped.
Unfazed, Centennial would respond yet again, with McFarland hitting Hughes for a short gain that turned into a dazzling 67-yard touchdown with 4:46 left in the game. Hamilton would turn the ball over on downs on the next series, giving Centennial premium field position with three minutes left in the game. Junior back Anthony Hughes would rip off a long run to put the Coyotes' inside the Hamilton 10-yard line, and John Hughes would finish his night with a fourth touchdown to secure the final margin of victory at 35-16.
The game lived up to expectations for the most part, with two late Centennial scores creating the illusion of a near-blowout. In a game where both teams made some mistakes and officiating was questionable on both sides, it was Centennial's quick start and relentless finish that pushed them over the top.
For Centennial, the Hughes brothers were the offensive workforces, with Anthony making numerous positive gains to the inside while John sliced through the Husky D to the outside. After seeing his first two throws go for interceptions against Desert Ridge McFarland has been superb, showing great poise in the pocket as well as a strong, accurate arm. Defensively Umuolo and Jimmie Lewis were standouts, each generating pressure on Hamilton's backfield numerous times.
Centennial struggled to contain the pitch-and-catch tandem of Hambsch and Terrell; any mention of Hamilton's offense tonight needs to start with these guys. Defensively Anthony Jones was phenomenal, getting in on several tackles and playing an integral role in slowing the Centennial running game.