With the Desert West Region title and a potential #1 playoff seed on the line Westview and Centennial took the field with varying approaches.
Westview, the challenger looking to notch their first win over the Coyotes since the Peoria school moved up to 5A in 2005, ran out on fire, amped up by a capacity home crowd and a chance to prove their spotless win-loss record as being legit.
Centennial, the two-time region and state champion, came out loose, a quiet resolve surrounding their approach along with an heir that they were in a familiar position. After being tested by talented Hamilton and Desert Vista teams early in the year, the Coyote stance seemed to emit a "business-as-usual" tone.
For at least one evening, experience trumped emotion as Centennial pulled off a 14-0 win behind a titanic effort from their defense.
Centennial opened the game with the ball, and promptly struck when John Hughes took off for a 31-yard sprint into Westview territory. A Dain McFarland draw for thirteen-yards and a nine-yard catch by Hughes would help the Coyotes get inside the Westview ten-yard line, setting up a Ryan Shaugher field goal from 21-yards out for the 3-0 lead.
Westview's opening possession would end in three plays, and Hughes would strike again on a long punt return down to the Knights' 26, and three successful runs gave Centennial a first down inside Westview's 15. The Knight defense would step up though, as Nate McOwen picked off a McFarland pass in the end zone to turn away the Coyotes.
Behind the running and passing of Jourdon Grandon Westview would proceed to chew up a large chunk of the clock, starting their drive in the first quarter and taking up most of the second quarter as well. After running off 11 plays that took the Knights into Centennial territory, it was the Coyote defense's turn to step up. Defensive lineman Jack Ramsey responded for Centennial, dropping Grandon behind the line of scrimmage for an eight-yard loss. A six-yard Grandon run and a third-down incompletion would force the Knights to punt.
After both teams exchanged stalled drives Centennial took over possession with just over a minute left in the first half; Anthony Hughes would start the drive with a powerful run that picked up eight-yards, and Justin Callahan would record two catches for 22-yards to again place the Coyotes deep in Westview territory. Shaugher would connect on his second field goal of the night with less than a second left in the half, and Centennial would go into the locker rooms with a narrow 6-0 lead.
Westview would open the half with another strong drive, keyed by Grandon's 52-yard pass to Carlton Williams. With the ball inside Centennial's ten-yard line Grandon would run the ball three straight times, gaining just a yard in the process. The Knights would attempt the short field goal attempt, but Stephen Szostek's kick would sail wide right as the Centennial defense turned away Westview's best series of the night.
A pair of Williams' runs would have Westview approaching midfield on their next possession, when Anthony Hughes would pick off a Grandon pass on third down. Three plays later, McFarland found Sean Dumdie sprinting down the right hash mark; McFarland would hit his receiver in stride, and 53-yards later Centennial had scored the game's first touchdown. The ensuing two-point conversion was successful, and the Coyote lead grew to 14-0 with 1:33 left in the third.
Centennial would re-gain possession following a Westview three-and-out, and again moved the ball efficiently behind the running of the Hughes brothers. A false start and a holding penalty would put the Coyotes in a first-and-goal situation on the Westview 32, and after a pair of runs by McFarland and John Hughes would net twenty yards Eric Ramsey recorded Westview's second interception of the night, taking the ball out to the Knights' fifteen-yard line.
Thanks to a Centennial personal foul and a long Eric Ramsey catch, Westview found themselves with a first-and-goal on the Centennial nine with over three minutes left in the game. An interception by Juan Ramos looked to have ended the game, but on the return it was ruled that Eric Ramsey had ripped the ball away to give the Knights a fresh set of downs on the Centennial 16.
Centennial's defense would respond, exhibiting the same emotion that Westview had shown to open the game; Dylan Lusk would bust through the line on first down, falling on Grandon for a nine-yard loss. Josh Bell would follow up with a sack of his own, this time for a ten-yard deficit. Back-to-back five-yard penalties would back the Knights up an additional ten yards, where Ethan Hermanowski would record Centennial's third consecutive sack. A series of Hughes brother runs would keep the clock moving, and the Coyotes would leave Avondale with a 14-0 victory.
Both teams put on gutsy defensive performances throughout the night, and did everything in their power to not surrender easy scores. Centennial's kicking game powered the Coyotes to a first-half lead, and in the second half they made a strong case that they had more offensive weapons than the Knights.
Westview's defense had difficulties slowing down both Hughes brothers all game, but it was Anthony's interception that helped set up the lone touchdown of the night. The Centennial defensive line won the battle of two elite fronts, stymieing the vaunted Knight running game and coming up big on Westview's last drive.