Strambler top offensive option
After running Centennial’s triple option attack for the past two seasons, senior quarter Payton Strambler knew the offense as well as his coaches.
Spartans’ coach Kyle Geller even suggested that Strambler could have called his own plays and the offense would have been just as successful.
The coaches of District 9-5A recognized Strambler’s prowess recently when they voted him the district’s Offensive Player of the Year.
Strambler was up for 9-5A MVP but lost out to Cleburne senior quarterback Tre’Von Bradley for the honor.
“I thought it was well-deserved,” Geller said. “He knew the offense and he operated it to near perfection. He could dish the ball, he ran people over and could throw the ball. We are going to miss him.”
Strambler guided an offense that averaged 348 yards and 32.7 points per game. He carried 170 times for 739 yards and a team-high 15 touchdowns. The senior completed 46-of-105 passes for 1,007 yards and eight scores.
The Spartans produced six first team players in junior utility player Kelton Tezeno, sophomore fullback Darrell Williams, senior receiver Xander Richards, senior guard Devin Gardner, senior kicker Ryan Reid and senior cornerback Blake Birdwell.
Tezeno rarely left the field for the Spartans playing slot back, safety and returning kicks.
“He was the best play maker in our district,” Geller said. “He also improved on things you don’t noticed from the stands. You get him the ball and good things are going to happen.”
Tezeno was the team’s third-leading rusher averages 14 yards each time he touched the ball and scoring a touchdown every 4.8 carries. He ran for 672 yards on 48 attempts. He also caught five passes for 39 yards.
Williams was Centennial’s leading rusher with 877 yards and 10 touchdowns on 129 carries. He also caught four passes for 105 yards and a score.
“Darrell came on at the end of the year,” Geller said. “He had the big play capability. If you gave him some space and got past the linebackers he could really go.”
At receiver Richards used his tall frame to beat defenders for balls and his speed to run great routes. The senior made the most of his targets nabbing 29 passes for 674 yards and six touchdowns.
“He had a great year,” Geller said. “He was a late bloomer. Opposing coaches thought a lot of him. It’s good to have a guy you can throw the ball up to and know he is going to come down with it.”
Gardner was one of key cogs in an offensive line that helped the Spartans average 289.8 yards rushing per game. Centennial’s running game turned in 512 yards rushing against Birdville and 410 yards versus Cleburne plus three 300-yard games.
“I’m happy for Devin to get first-team honors.” Geller said. “From his junior year to his senior year he made so much improvement.”
Reid didn’t get much help from the Spartans’ coaching according to Geller but he was a force kicking off and a weapon on field goal attempts. The senior made four-of-six field goals and converted 53-of-54 point-after kicks.
“He didn’t get as many field goal opportunities as he did as a junior,” Geller said. “He has worked hard to be a good kicker. The kids just loved him. He had a great career here.”
Birdwell was Centennial’s lone first-team defensive player. The senior made 23 tackles, had five tackles for losses, one interception and broke up for five passes.
“He’s another do everything guy,” Geller said. “Team’s would try to test him and every game he’d prove why he was our best corner. He set the example of how to practice, on how you carry yourself and how to be a teammate. I don’t know if I’ve been around anyone better than him. I told him a while ago he needs to run for Congress one day because he’s kind the person we need there. He’s going to be a big success in life.”
Geller said the Spartans’ season ended too soon but said it was a still a great season. Centennial won a share of its first district title at 6-1 and finished with a record of 10-2.
“Our kids were great this season and I’m very proud of them,” Geller said. “I don’t know if we had one issue this year with this team. I think that speaks volumes for them. I know they wish and I wish we had gone farther but it just didn’t happen.”
Centennial had three second-team offensive players in senior tackle Jacob Collier, junior tackle Kyle Perry and sophomore guard Sheldon Wilson and four defensive players in senior end Jacob Rowan, senior tackle Ronnie Burns-Lane, senior outside Charlie Lambert and senior safety Ethan Quintanilla.
Six Spartans earned honorable mention accolades including seniors Jailon Freeman (defensive backer), Brayden Hirsch (linebacker/slot back) and Garrett Parkhill (end), juniors Blake Murphy (linebacker) and Wellington Bridges (receiver) and sophomore Brayden Chandler (offensive lineman).