With star running back John Hughes on the sidelines and a showdown with undefeated region foe Westview looming next week, the top-ranked Centennial Coyotes might have been poised for a hiccup against an unheralded Tolleson squad. And for most of one quarter that was the case, as the Coyote offense fumbled an early scoring chance away and some opportunistic play by Tolleson's offense kept the Centennial defense on their feet early.
Alas, once Centennial punched the ball in with just over a minute left in the first quarter the floodgates opened, and the Coyotes routed the Wolverines 38-0.
After forcing Tolleson to punt on the game's opening drive, the Centennial offense looked like it wouldn't miss a beat without the talented Hughes, as a Dain McFarland pass to Austin Arias went for a 21-yard gain and Anthony Hughes would rumble to the Tolleson one-yard line following a Wolverine offside penalty. A bad exchange into the end zone would result in a Tolleson fumble recovery and the ball moved out to their own 20.
The ensuing possession showed a lot of promise for the Wolverines, as a healthy serving of power running behind their massive offensive line, driving into Centennial territory before sputtering out.
Starting with the ball on their own 40, the Coyotes would ride the powerful running of Anthony Hughes down the field, culminating in Hughes' 31-yard touchdown run to break the scoreless gridlock. Tolleson would respond with another effective drive, highlighted by a 19-yard run by sophomore back Jalen Roebuck; the Wolverine offense would stall again, but would get the ball back two plays later when Darnell Woods picked off McFarland.
Centennial's defense would counter with an interception of their own (by Brad Williams); McFarland would find wide receiver Kyle Coffey in the open field four plays later, connecting on a 70-yard scoring strike.
Tolleson would punt after three straight plays on the ensuing series, with Centennial starting their next drive on the Tolleson 46. Hughes would be dropped for a loss on first down, only to have junior back Aaron Smolinski rip off a 12-yard pick-up to gain the first down. McFarland would finish the drive off, scrambling for a nine-yard gain on first down before hitting senior receiver Justin Callahan in the end zone for a leaping grab over two Tolleson defenders for the 21-0 lead.
The Coyotes would get the ball back again with less than a minute left in the first half, and responded with a 15- and 17-yard gains from McFarland to Callahan. Kicker Ryan Shaugher would connect from 45-yards out to send Centennial into the locker rooms with a commanding 24-0 lead.
McFarland would pick up his third scoring pass of the night on Centennial's second offensive series of the half, hitting Sean Dumdie for a 30-yard strike. Linebacker Reggie Umuolo would pick off Woods for Centennial; the Coyote offense proceeded to march down field before the team's offensive starters were pulled. Jebron Harrington would close out the night's scoring, rumbling in from five-yards out.
For the third straight season a gritty, physical Tolleson squad gave Centennial fits, consistently picking up positive yardage and at times neutralizing the talented Coyote D. Much like the previous two years the offense managed to do just enough to keep the Centennial offense off the field for large chunks of time.
McFarland has had back-to-back three touchdown games, and Anthony Hughes was effective at churning out the necessary rushing yards to move the Centennial offense. Still, if the team hopes to remain undefeated after next week's Westview showdown they need to play with more urgency from the kickoff on.
McFarland was the clear offensive leader in the absence of John Hughes, passing for 207 yards and three scores. After a pair of rough outings Shaugher showed why he's one of the most talented kickers in the state, highlighted by the 45-yard field goal to close out the first half.