Centennial High School captured its first Region 7-6A victory of the season when the Cougars defeated the Summit High School Spartans 31-14 Friday night.
The Cougars (4-1, 1-1) scored 10 points in the last 2:27 of the first half to give them a 10-point lead, 17-7, at halftime on a short pass from Brendan Jones to Kani Johnson for a touchdown. After getting a defensive stop, they added a 35-yard field goal by Sam Cochran in the dying seconds of the first half. The Cougars never looked back.
“Right there at the end of the half, we finished the half strong,” Centennial head coach Matt Kriesky said. “We did some good things and started to get back on track. We got the momentum back, the kids came in at halftime pumped, and you could tell they were ready to finish this thing.”
Kriesky said he told his team that Summit wasn’t hurting the team, but they were hurting themselves by not executing and sticking to their assignments for much of the first half, despite starting off strong.
Taner Lee scored from eight yards out to put Centennial up 7-0 early in the first quarter, but Summit quarterback Austin Harvey answered with a 9-yard run of his own, one of his two touchdowns on the evening, to tie the score up 7-7 in the first quarter. An interception hauled in by Summit’s Finley Jameson set up the score.
“These kids have gotten better each week,” Kriesky said. “They stuck to our plan. We started out good; our first drive was good. We drove the ball down and scored. We had a little lull between the first and second quarter.”
The teams then proceeded to fail to move the ball for much of the rest of the first half. Each team punted the ball four times until the Cougars’ 10-point burst to end the half.
After halftime, Centennial imposed its will and scored two touchdowns in the third quarter. The first came on a 9-yard run by Taner Lee. Later, Johnson scored his second touchdown of the evening with just three seconds left in the quarter to make it 31-7
“We came out in the second half, the defense was able to get the stop and the offense was able to get the score,” Kriesky said. “Were up 24-7 at the time, the kids kept fighting doing everything we asked them to do.”
Lee finished with 135 yards and two touchdowns on 24 carries, while Johnson caught eight passes for 154 yards and two touchdowns.
Summit (1-4, 0-2), the defending state runner-up in 6A, got a second rushing touchdown from Harvey in the final minute of the fourth quarter to make the score 31-14.
Centennial will hope to use the victory as momentum to try and capture an elusive playoff spot as the season goes on.
“This is a huge region win for us. The past three or four years we have kind of played in a hole,” Kriesky said. “Last year, our only region in was Franklin, so by this point in the season, being 4-1, we have a little bit more confidence about ourselves.
"The kids are believing in each other and believing in the coaches. We can’t be content with this win because the next three region teams we play are going to be very tough.”
Centennial missed the playoffs despite having a 6-4 record last season.
The Cougars will play two of those three on the road. They will travel to Franklin on Sept. 30 and host region favorite Ravenwood at home on Oct. 7, before traveling to Brentwood to finish the season on Oct. 28
Both teams will step outside the region next week. The Spartans will continue their road gauntlet with a trip to Beech High School. Centennial will travel to Dickson County High School to face a former region foe.