Spartans defense stuns Cleburne
Tonight, Centennial will look carry the momentum built during Friday’s win over Cleburne into a District 9-5A showdown with Arlington Seguin.
The Spartans (4-1, 1-1) will take on the Cougars (4-1, 2-0) at 7 p.m. at Arlington’s Wilemon Field.
The Cougars come into the game following 9-5A wins over Joshua and Everman. Seguin’s shotgun look will be led by backup quarterback Jordan Palacpac. Seguin’s offense averages 313 yards (237 rushing, 76 passing) and 27 points per game.
“On defense we have to tackle well,” Centennial coach Kyle Geller said. “They are very fast and big. We have to put ourselves in the right position or they will run by us.”
Geller added that if the defense doesn’t pay attention to detail and get into proper position the Cougars will make them look silly, the way Crowley had in its district opener.
Offensively, the Spartans must find a way to get their inside running game going while facing Seguin’s big tackles Timothy Akinyode and Patrick Lee.
Facing a Cleburne offense that had racked up 554.5 yards and 54 points per game Centennial didn’t flinch in its 9-5A matchup last Friday night at Burleson ISD Stadium.
Centennial came out slugging on offense and punching on defense helping Spartans way to a 38-21 homecoming victory.
In the first half alone, Centennial tallied 248 yards rushing on 31 carries. For the game, the Spartans option attack under the direction of three-year starting quarterback Payton Strambler finished with 436 yards on 63 attempts (6.9 yards per carry).
“Payton did a really nice job of executing the offense tonight,” Geller said. “He had very few misreads if any.”
While Centennial was running roughshod over the Jackets’ defense, the Spartans were slowing down Cleburne’s prolific offense.
On the night, the Jackets ran just 39 plays for 283 yards. Cleburne racked up 111 passing on scoring plays of 71 and 40 yards from Trevon Bradley to Austin Robinson. Bradley entered the game averaging 216.7 yards rushing and 213.5 yards passing per game. He was held below both averages. The senior ran for one score but finished with 45 yards on 12 carries and threw for 218 yards.
“Our defense really executed their game plan,” Geller said. “They did a really nice job. They contained Bradley and their running back didn’t have much going on. They just had a great overall night on defense against a good offense.”
Most of those yards came after the Spartans had built a 38-6 lead.
Leading 7-0 on an 8-yard run by Romero, Centennial’s defense came up with what might have been the biggest play of the night. With Cleburne facing a fourth-and-2 at its 39, Ronnie Burns-Lane and Ethan Quintanilla sandwiched Bradley in the backfield for a two-yard loss.
Centennial parlayed the turnover on downs into 10-0 lead thanks to a 37-yard field goal by Reid Ryan. Two plays later, Charlie Lambert recovered a Cleburne fumble at the Jackets 41. The Spartans needed four plays to take a 17-0 lead on the first play of the second quarter when Strambler scored from 12 yards out.
Cleburne cut the Spartans lead to 17-6 on its next play from scrimmage with a 71-yard pass from Bradley to Robinson.
Centennial scored on its last possession of the first half and on first two possessions in the second half to build a 38-6 lead.
Romero, who was making his first career start, rushed for 111 yards on 14 carries and scored twice. Slot back Blake Birdwell just missed reaching the century mark and the senior carried five times for 99 yards.
“Kevan made some really good cuts,” Geller said. “He was doing what he is drilled to do. He protected the ball well and ran hard. He got his turn.”
Strambler ran the offense to near perfection. He rushed for 69 yards on 15 attempts and one score. Strambler completed 2-of-3 passes for 55 yards including a 50-yard touchdown toss to Wellington Bridges.