Game Preview: Centennial v. La Joya

Preview of Friday's battle of two undefeated region foes

CENTENNIAL COYOTES @ LA JOYA LOBOS

Coyote offense versus Lobo defense

After four stellar games in which he scored 13 touchdowns, RB John Hughes had his first "down" game in a 20-7 Centennial win over Desert Vista (he did have some good runs on the team's go-ahead drive and did get the go-ahead score).  Brother Anthony picked up the slack for the Coyote run game, registering perhaps his best game of the year with a 77-yard, one touchdown night (on 13 carries).  Receivers Justin Callahan and Matt Baugh each had long catches against Desert Vista from junior QB Dain McFarland, who has not thrown an interception since his second pass attempt of the season.

This season has seemed to be about feast or famine for the Lobo defense, as they have notched shut-out wins over Carl Hayden and Kingman but have allowed an average of 29-points per outing in their other three wins.  Daniel Borja, Stephaun Grant, and Mark Escobedo have had some big games out of the front seven for La Joya.  If the Lobos give up 200+ yards on the ground to the Hughes brothers (as they did in Friday night's 42-41 win over Valley Vista and their combo of Derek McFadden and Charles James) they will be hard-pressed to come away with a win.

Lobo offense versus Coyote defense

Things on this side of the ball definitely start with QB Jeremiah Cornist, a converted running back who has received interest from Division-One schools.  Last year Cornist topped over 1,500 yards on the season, and last week set a new Class 5A single game rushing record with a 380-yard outburst.  Sophomore DJ Hubbard started off strong with 100-yard outings versus Willow Canyon and Kingman, but has been limited since.  Kei Harris, La Massenburg, and Esteban Urbalejo have all rushed for 100-yards on the year.

While the Centennial offense experienced some tough sledding against Desert Vista, the defense answered with a standout performance, limiting the Thunder to just 69 yards of offense.  Instrumental in the win was DE Jimmie Lewis, who spent the better part of the evening in the opposing backfield and dropping the quarterback several times.  As a unit the Coyote defense has been extremely opportunistic, recording touchdowns in four of their wins.

BOTTOM LINE

Both teams come into this matchup undefeated, but there's a sense that La Joya remains largely unproven; only Willow Canyon has a winning record this season, it took some last minute heroics from Cornist to dispatch of second-year varsity program Valley Vista, and Trevor Browne had the ball in the closing moments with an opportunity to win.  Regardless of the outcome on Friday the Lobos' standing will become much more certain.

Year after year Centennial has one of the elite offensive lines in the state, and this year is no exception.  Returnees Nick Rowland, Junior Nieves, and Bryan Gabbard (who missed two games due to appendicitis) have been instrumental not just in the Coyotes' powerful running game, but also giving McFarland ample protection when he passes.

The two teams met twice last season, with Centennial winning both contests by a combined score of 116-26.  La Joya will need to have a better showing from its punt game to pull off the upset, as several short punts gave Centennial prime field position in both contests.  Gunnar Wright has emerged as a quality punter for the Lobos, averaging 39-yards per kick.      


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