Spartans regain 'The Boot'
Hank Meyer’s first play as a varsity quarterback still gives him nightmares.
As a freshman last season, Meyer fumbled the snap during Centennial’s playoff loss to Mansfield.
“Every time I go down for a snap that’s what is in my head,” Meyer said. “I still have nightmares about that.”
Friday night, Meyer entered the Spartans annual Hall of Fame/Boot Game with Burleson when senior starting quarterback Kyle Burns left the game with an injury with 4:30 to play in the third quarter with the game tied 7-7.
Meyer bobbled the first snap but after that, he was in complete control of the Spartans’ triple-option offense.
The sophomore capped that drive with a touchdown, then led the Spartans to a score on their next possession to help Centennial reclaim “The Boot” with a 21-7 District 5-5A Division II victory over Burleson at Burleson ISD Stadium.
The win ended a two-game winning streak by the Elks in the series. Burleson leads the series 4-3.
Centennial (5-1, 3-1) hosts Cleburne at 7:30 p.m. Friday for homecoming while Burleson (5-1, 3-1) plays at 7:30 p.m. Friday at district-leader Aledo.
“I was nervous when I got on the field but I know I have to be ready because Kyle’s gone down twice this season,” Burns said. “At first, it was fast out there and then it slowed down.”
Burns said he had the ultimate confidence in his understudy.
“Hank practices hard every week and gets just as many reps I do in practice,” Burns said. “I knew he was going to do a good job.”
Four plays after Meyer entered the game, Centennial took the lead for good at 14-7 lead with 3:58 to play in the quarter when senior junior Chris Mosley broke free for a 38-yard score off a slot back trap.
Centennial’s defense helped the Spartans seal things on the Elks ensuing possession when senior linebacker Darrell Williams intercepted a pass by Burleson senior quarterback Jacob Amador and returned it to the Elks 24 with 54 seconds left in the quarter.
“I just went through my pass progressions and he threw the ball right to me,” said Williams, who was playing in his fourth “Boot” game. “I tried to take it for six but I got hit from the back. It feels great to get the boot back. I’m excited we get to go home with the boot and a win.”
The Spartans made the most of the turnover as Meyer scored on a three-yard run with 9:48 to play in the game to put Centennial up 21-7.
Amador and senior wide receiver Jacob Moss tried to get the Elks back into the game on Burleson’s next possession. The duo connected on pass plays of 17, 11, and 14 yards on the drive that reached the Centennial 17.
But the Elks luck ran out on the 16th play of the march when Centennial senior defensive back David Robinson intercepted a pass in the end zone.
“We were in cover 2, I saw the slot coming out and I played up,” Robinson said. “The ball got tipped and came to me. It was definitely a change in momentum and it kind of put a cap on things.”
The Elks would get the ball one more time but this time Moss was stripped of the ball after a long gain and Centennial recovered. The Spartans were able to run out the clock and the celebration was on.
“It feels so good to get the boot back,” Robinson said. “Now we have 365 days of bragging rights.”
Amador and Moss had great nights in the loss.
Amador completed 18 of 29 passes for 248 yards and a touchdown. Moss hauled in the nine passes for 184 yards.
“(Moss) is an excellent football player,” Burleson coach Gary McElroy said. “He had made big plays and has had multiple catches in every game we have played this season and he came up big tonight.”
Centennial’s defense slowed down Burleson’s potent running game which entered the game averaging 227 yards rushing. Friday night, the Elks finished with 69 yards on 24 carries.
The Spartans have now held their last three opponents to single-digit scoring,
“Hopefully our defense can stay on track,” Centennial coach Kyle Geller said. “I’m happy for our kids and the school.”
The first half was filled with missed opportunities for the Elks.
After Centennial took a 7-0 lead with 4:35 left in the first quarter on a two-yard pass from Burns to Jaylon Jackson, Burleson put together a pair of long drives that each ended with missed field goals by junior kicker Edgar Zaragoza, who won last year’s game with a last-second 45-yard field goal.
On their second possession of the game, the Elks moved the ball 62 yards on 12 plays only to see the drive stall at Centennial 15. Zaragoza then missed a 32-yard field goal.
Trailing 7-0, Burleson’s next drive covered 42 yards on 10 plays but was slowed at the Spartans 24. This time a 34-yard field goal by Zaragoza hit the left upright with six seconds to play.
“Our defense played pretty good but we missed two field goals and those were kind of momentum changers,” McElroy said. “We hit those two field goals and don’t turn the ball over maybe it’s a different game. We played good enough defense to stay in the game and win it but we just didn’t get it done offensively. You put the defense in a bad situation when you turn the ball over.”
Early in the third quarter, Amador and Moss hooked up for a 67-yard play that put the ball at the Spartans 1. The Elks were able to overcome a couple of false start penalties to tie the game when Amador hit Jarrett Austin with a swing pass for a 10-yard score with 6:40 to play in the quarter.
Four plays later, Burns left the game with an injury. Meyer took over the Spartans offense and wrote his page in “Boot” game lore.
“Hank is the perfect example of needing to be ready in the blink of an eye,” Geller said. “He did a really nice job of coming in and operating the offense. It didn’t slow us at all.”
Centennial junior linebacker Chris Hilliard was thrilled with the win.
“It was a great game and a great win,” Hilliard said. “I’m proud of our team. Defensively, we put a lot of pressure on the quarterback and we were able to shut down the run game. We put them in some bad spots. It feels great to get the boot back. You can’t even describe it.”