Despite an “never-say-die” offense and a “take-no-prisoners” defense the Centralia Panthers’ football season ended tonight, Friday, October 26, in Mexico, when they lost 53-40 to the Mexico Bulldogs in the first round of the district playoffs.
The game started with some semblance of parity.
While Centralia’s offense struggled early with turnovers, five in the first half, the Panther defense compensated by treating the Bulldog offense the way a Conibear trap treats a Thompson muskrat, taking their running backs off at the knees, the heads, anywhere the likes of Grafton LIttrell, Gus Stidham, Trevor Bodine, Jake Freidel and Liam Hill could get ahold of them.
By the first quarter’s end, Centralia had tied the score 7-7 after Nick Wheaton took a John Durant handoff and skated 32 yards down the east sideline for a touchdown, capped off by a successful Luke Hunter extra point kick.
Mexico broke the tie early in the second, with four touchdowns to Centralia’s one.
After Mexico scored early with a Dillion Nichols one-yard run and a 17-yard Ty Prince pass to Keyon Mahaney, Centralia hit back with a 37-yard Wheaton touchdown run.
Unfortunately for the Panthers, Mexico score twice more after that.
When the teams hit the locker rooms for halftime, Mexico was up 33-13.
“I told the kids at halftime, you’ve got two choices,” Centralia head coach Jim Newsted said. “You can lay down and quit or you can get up and fight and give yourself a chance. It’s kind of been our motto all year long when it comes to adversity. You either fight or you quit. They did the same thing the second half, they didn’t quit, they kept fighting. It shows you the type of integrity they have, the type of work ethic they have. I am positive in the future, they will all be good young men.”
Though in the lead, Mexico had its own concerns.
“I wanted to play defensively better,” Mexico Coach Steve Haag said, regarding how the game unfolded. “Centralia’s good, very good. They watched our Moberly game. Moberly has a good quarterback and good running backs like Centralia, so I know they were taking notes from that. I just wanted to do better defensively
this time. I was worried about the Bodine in the middle. We figured him into our game plan and I think we kind of negated him a little in the first half. They started playing some games later-on with the linebacker and him which kind of confused us.”
“We did a lot of blitzing,” said Newsted. “We went inside with the middle linebacker and that gave them some fits. But it cost us too in their toss plays. Committing a middle linebacker to the blitz made us weak against the toss.”
The pitch problem did not go unnoticed.
“The long pitched really wore down our defense and neutralized any rush from the edge,” said one observer. “The outside linebackers were on their heels watching the option. Without their defensive end getting early penetration to shut the door on the play the quarterback could extend to the hash making the linebacker pause while the running back got outside and turned the corner. They did not lean on big 68 to wear down the edge and instead extended to the sidelines. A big switch from the first meeting.”
The shifting and adjusting showed in the second half, Mexico scored a bit less and Centralia scored a bit more.
The Panthers scored 12 in the third and 15 in the fourth.
It was not enough to offset Mexico’s 26-point second quarter, especially when they still managed to score 13 in the third and seven in the fourth.
Central finished the season 5-5.
For the rest of the story, please see next week’s edition of the Centralia Fireside Guard.