• Centennial receiver Xander Richards head to the end zone as teammate Ethan Diaz blocks Burleson’s Tanner Haynes during the Spartans’ 28-11 District 9-5A victory in the team’s annual boot game. It was the Spartans second win the five-game series.  BURLESON STAR/CHRIS JASO

Spartans dominate Elks, 28-11

In preparation for Centennial’s annual “Boot Game” with Burleson, the Spartans’ offensive coaches broke down video from the past two meetings with the Elks.

They came up with a game plan to hopefully negate the Elks tendency to stack the line of scrimmage by using the talents of senior receiver Xander Richards.

The Spartans didn’t call on Richards much Friday night but when they did he delivered. Richards caught all six passes thrown Friday and turned two into touchdowns as Centennial scored  its first three possessions and forced three turnovers on the way to a 28-11 District 9-5A win over the Elks in the teams annual “Boot Game”.

“I thought we executed well, we just had a couple of penalties that kept us from scoring more points,” Centennial coach Kyle Geller said. “The kids were comfortable with our plan and went out and executed it.”

The victory ended Burleson’s three-game winning streak in “The Boot” series. Centennial’s only other win over the Elks came in 2012 when the current senior class was in eighth grade. Burleson leads the all-time series, 3-2.

“I didn’t want to go out with a loss against them,” said Centennial quarterback Payton Strambler, whose senior class avoided being the first to graduate without a varsity football win over Burleson. “That would have really been bad.”

Centennial (6-1, 3-1) is now tied for second place in the district with Arlington Seguin. Burleson (3-4, 2-2) is tied with Everman for fourth place. The Spartans play Friday at Granbury and the Elks host Cleburne in the school’s annual “Spike Game.”

“Turnovers killed us,” Burleson coach Gary McElroy said. “You can’t turn over the ball against a team that has the ability to hold the ball for a while. They did a good job of limiting our possessions and we gave away three possessions on turnovers and that made it tough.”

Strambler had a hand in all four of the Centennial’s touchdowns. The three-year starter at quarterback scored on runs of 1 and 14 yards and also hit Richards for touchdown receptions of 14 and 32 yards.

“We schemed up some plans for them and how they try to stop the run and we made them pay with our passing game,” Strambler said. “Everyone was packed inside to try and stop the run so we got the ball outside and let Xander do what he does.”

Strambler led the Spartans in rushing with 122 yards on 18 carries. He also completed six of six passes for 100 yards. All six passes went to Richards. Centennial fullback Darrell Williams tallied 82 yards on 20 carries.

Centennial held a 14-3 lead on scoring drives of 65 and 66 yards when the Spartans’ defense came up with the first of three interceptions. Ethan Quintanilla’s first of two interceptions put the ball on the Elk 17.

“We did what we needed to do on defense,” said Centennial sophomore linebacker Andrew Walker. “We lined up perfectly and made the calls. We communicated well on the field and shut it down.”

Three plays later, the Spartans scored on a one-yard run by Strambler for a 21-3 lead. Kevan Romero set up the touchdown with a 15-yard run.

Burleson’s lone score of the first half a 27-yard field goal by Hayden Whitten came at the end of a 13-play, 66-yard drive. The Elks had reached the Centennial 2 but back-to-back illegal procedure penalties helped stall the drive.

The Elks opened the second half with the ball at their five and things turned bad from there when Centennial’s Charlie Lambert’s interception gave the Spartans the ball at the Burleson 17.

On the second play of the drive, Strambler rumbled into the end zone from 14 yards out for a 28-3 lead.

Burleson turned to backup quarterback Tristen DeLeon who gave the Elks’ offense a spark. The senior capped a 10-play, 86-yard drive with a 32-yard scoring strike to Jaylen Johnson. DeLeon scored on the two-point conversion to cut the lead to 28-11 with 6:54 to play in the third quarter.

“(Tristen) came in and was able to move us down the field and get us a touchdown,” McElroy said. “I was proud of him because he was able to come in, in a situation like that and put something together.”

DeLeon and Whitten each completed eight of 12 passes on the night. DeLeon threw for 109 yards and a score while Whitten had 91 yards passing. Johnson finished with eight receptions for 124 yards and a score.

“Jaylen played great tonight,” McElroy said. “He played like we always hoped and depended on him to play. He rose to the challenge.”

After the Elks’ defense forced a punt, things soured for Burleson on its next possession as Quintanilla made an acrobatic play on an interception. Following a missed field goal, the Spartans’ defense made a stop on fourth-and-three at the Centennial 31 to put the game away.

Burleson Star

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Centennial receiver Xander Richards head to the end zone as teammate Ethan Diaz blocks Burleson’s Tanner Haynes during the Spartans’ 28-11 District 9-5A victory in the team’s annual boot game. It was the Spartans second win the five-game series.  BURLESON STAR/CHRIS JASO