DAY 15: Spartans boot Yellow Jackets
Sports Editors Note:
This is the seventh in a series of 17 football game stories that will tout either a Burleson or Centennial victory. The series is meant to get you excited about the upcoming season and also serve as a lead up to the release of our 2016 Football Section in our Aug. 18 edition.
WEATHERFORD — With a pair of quarterbacks playing a high-stakes game of ‘anything you can do, I can do better,’ it was a junior kicker that played the ultimate trump card.
Centennial’s Ryan Reid converted his point-after kick during the first round of overtime to give the Spartans a 30-29 victory over Fort Worth Arlington Heights in a Class 5A Division I Region I bidistrict playoff game at Kangaroo Stadium in Weatherford.
The win was sweet for Centennial (8-3) considering Heights (8-2) routed the Spartans, 70-28, in the same round of the playoffs last season.
“It was amazing to win a playoff game,” Centennial junior quarterback Payton Strambler said. “It was even better to beat them since they killed us last year.”
Centennial will play Saginaw Boswell at Dragon Stadium in Southlake. This will be a rematch on a week three meeting that Boswell won, 36-33, in overtime.”
“I told the team in the locker room is that I feel blessed to be their coach,” Centennial coach Kyle Geller said. “They are so tough. We aren’t the biggest team or the fastest team. When you look at us, we don’t look like much. But you can’t measure our hearts.”
Reid’s kick gave Centennial its first playoff win in the program’s four-year varsity history. It also marked the first time the Spartans have won eight games in a season.
“This was a landmark win for us and hopefully it is something we are satisfied with,” said Geller, who started the program five years ago. “It’s been a building process. It has a lot to do with the culture. Last year, the kids we had decided that they were going to be unselfish, They were going to work hard and take coaching well.”
The kick was redemption of sorts for Reid who missed an extra point attempt in the third quarter to give the Yellow Jackets an opening to tie the game.
“I knew my team would find a way to win,” Reid said. “I was excited (when the kick went through) then I heard there was a flag. I was ready to kick it again. But I was glad it was on them.”
Heights’ kicker Tate Buffington, on the other hand, had a tough night. In the first quarter, Jailon Freeman blocked his 30-yard field goal attempt. Then in overtime he missed wide right on his point-kick attempt.
After scoring two of touchdowns in the fourth quarter and converting both two-point conversions to tie the game at 23-23, Heights overcame a first-and-20 and a second-and-11 and a fourth-and-1 to take a 29-23 lead on a nine-yard touchdown run by senior quarterback Deion Hair-Griffin.
“We were playing a dominate offense that was putting up big points every game and Our coaches put up a good game plan,” Centennial senior safety Nathan French said. “Our front seven were filling every gap. When you have guys playing like that there is not a team that is going to stop us.”
The Spartans seemed to have held when Buffington’s 33-yard field fell way short but Centennial was called offsides. Three plays later the Yellow Jackets scored.
Centennial needed just two plays to tie the game. First, sophomore slot back Kelton Tezeno took a pitch and raced 16 yards to the Heights nine. From there, junior quarterback Payton Strambler score his fourth touchdown of the game and Reid make the game-winning kick.
The Spartans’ defense held Heights’ high-powered offense in check during the first half. But Hair-Griffin and senior running back Kevin Bowie found running room in the second half.
Hair-Griffin, who ran for three scores and threw for another, carried 14 times for 143 and completed 6 of 12 passes for 104 yards. Bowie rushed for 127 yards on 19 attempts.
“We definitely frustrated them offensively in the first half,” French said. “Their coaches were getting frustrated. In the second half, Hair-Griffin started getting the edge. He’s a fast guy.”
Strambler was the Spartans leading rusher carrying 18 times of 90 yards. He scored on runs of 1, 5, 4 and 9 yards. Junior running back Shayne Streminski rushed for 74 yards on 17 carries and Tezeno finished with 63 yards in 5 carries.
Centennial’s limited Heights’ offense, which came into the game averaging 446.9 yards and 52.8 points per game, to 388 yards. The Spartans forced a pair of turnovers.
“Winning a playoff game is everything I’ve worked for since sixth grade,” French said. “It’s all paying off for us. This team works harder than any team I’ve ever been on.”