Centralia Panthers 35, Palmyra – 24
The Centralia Panthers football team is still undefeated. After an 80-minute bus ride to Palmyra, they returned to Centralia with a 35-24 in the books, making Centralia 3-0, so far this season.
After having beaten Hallsville 65-36, who had beaten Palmyra in their season opener 46-6, there might have been some surprised fans on one side of the field when the first quarter ended 0-0.
That changed to pleasant surprise when four seconds into the second quarter, Jesse Caballero drilled through Palmyra’s line for a four-yard touchdown run, enforced by an Anthony Ford extra point kick to make it 7-0, Centralia.
Palmyra responded in kind a minute later with a four-yard touchdown rush and a failed two-point conversion play to make the scoreboard read 7-6, Centralia.
“Our game plan was as simple as it was three weeks ago,” Dalton Hill, Palmyra Panthers head coach told the Centralia Fireside Guard afterward. “Execute our offense on a high level and focus on the basics. We came in and focus and inside-outside zone, spread the ball out and deliver some nice pieces down the field.”
He said the was room for Palmyra to improve. “Obviously we’ve got to keep getting better, focusing on the small things and doing the basics better.”
Friday night that translated to, “every time we get hit, we hit back.”
Less than 20 seconds after Palmyra scored, Caballero scored again, on a 65-yard touchdown run, followed by another Ford extra point, making it 14-6, Centralia.
Palmyra responded three minutes later with a 96-yard kickoff-return touchdown and another two-point conversion failure to make it 14-12, Centralia.
Centralia quarterback Cullen Bennet finished the half with a five yard up the middle touchdown to make it 21-12 after another Ford extra point, just in time for half time.
“I knew they had gotten a lot better since week 1,” Bennett said afterward. “I knew they were going to be physical. That’s just how Palmyra is. I knew it would be tight game because that is just how it is between us and Palmyra. They are a physical ball club and they’ve gotten a lot better since week one.”
He said Centralia knew it would have to contend with some speed from at least one of Palmyra’s skill positions.
That speed may have factored in Palmyra’s defense in the third.
Bennett and Centralia only scored once that quarter, at the 7:05 mark, when Ford caught an 11-yard Bennett pass, ran it in for a touchdown, switched his right shoe to a square-toed one to kick another extra point.
Centralia’s defense held Palmyra scoreless in the third and the quarter ended, 28-12, Centralia.
“It was a tough ball game, Palmyra came out and gave us all they had,” Tyler Forsee, Centralia Panthers head football coach said afterward. “Hats off to them and their coaches. Those kids played their hearts out. We kind of had to overcome some self-inflicted wounds, but at the same time…
Despite those wounds, Centralia scored another seven in the fourth while Palmyra rallied to score 12.
The rally was not enough, leaving Centralia with win number three.
Centralia’s offense seized 470 yards, 283 rushing and 187 passing.
Centralia’s defense held Palmyra to 460, 223 passing and 37 rushing.
Wyatt Bryson led the Panther defense with eight combined tackles, five solos and three assisted.
Ashton Price and Elliott McCoy each has six combined tackles, five and one each. Price’ included one sack and three tackles for a loss.
Beau Hatton, Rex Bryson and Ian Tuggle had five total tackles each and Ford had four.
Bennett led the offense with one passing touchdown and two rushing touchdowns.
He passed for 187 yards, with 11 completions out of 14 attempts.
He rushed for 121 yards.
Caballero rushed for 107 and two touchdowns.
Ford led the receivers with one touchdown and two receptions for 35 yards and one touchdown. He was also five for five on extra-point kicks. Cayden Dunn had one reception for 34 yards.
Next week Centralia hosts Clarence Cannon Conference competitor, Brookfield.
For more, see next week’s edition of the Centralia Fireside Guard.