Takes come-from-behind, 24-18, overtime district playoff win over Hallsville
Something rare happened at Centralia High School’s Miller Field the evening of October 27.
The Centralia Panther football team beat the Hallsville Indians in post-season play.
Centralia came from behind and won, 24-18 in overtime.
The sky was black, empty, filled with wind and cold, the occasional football and the red and green blinking LEDs of the Panthers team drone.
Nobody scored in the first quarter, though the teams did trade interceptions.
Early in the game Centralia’s Luke Waltermate stifled a Hallsville drive. “I was just at the right place at the right time,” Waltermate, a sophomore defensive back and wide receiver said of his first varsity interception. “He just threw it right to me.”
The euphoria was short lived when a few plays later Hallsville sophomore defensive back Delvin Smith returned the favor.
While both teams’ stellar defenses gave the fans of black and white, as well as purple and gold, reasons for hope, nobody scored in the first quarter.
Centralia’s Jesse Caballero changed that four seconds into the second quarter with a four-yard touchdown run after taking a short lateral from Panther quarterback Cullen Bennett.
But Hallsville’s defense responded and stuffed his two-point conversion attempt.
Neither team scored a conversion or extra-point kick that night.
It was not a comfortable lead, but Centralia fans’ cheers indicated the liked the game’s direction.
Until, with 47 seconds left in the half, Hallsville’s Colton Nichols made his own four-yard touchdown run, tying the game at 6 going into halftime.
The third quarter was filled with dynamic defensive play from both sides, and no scores.
The game was tied at six going into the fourth.
That was when Hallsville broke loose, punching through Centralia’s defense for with a pair of temporarily unanswered touchdowns – first, six seconds in, by senior running back Abe El-Fenaish from three yards out and the second, at 5:50, by junior Indians quarterback Brayden Metheney from two yards out.
Purple and gold was starting to look like a color combination that might see some more football time.
Then 4:35 left in the game, Caballero regained his groove, turning a Bennett handoff into a 2-yard touchdown. But run with 2:08 left in the game – 18-12, Hallsville and time outs started flying.
But Hallsville was still ahead, until the 2:08 mark.
That is when Caballero broke free and ran 57 yards down the east sideline for another touchdown. “Jesse is a spark for us,” Forsee said afterward. “He can score any time he touches the ball… It took a little while to get some plays going tonight… Our O-line was very patient and they didn’t quit.”
Head Coach Tyler Forsee opted for something different, a rare extra point kick by Bennett.
It flew wide and the game rolled into overtime.
Bennett and Hallsville’s Xavier Stinson were brought to mid-field by the referees. Bennett and Centralia won the coin toss for first possession.
The Panthers passed, rushed and slammed down field, eventually reaching the nine-yard line.
That when Bennett did something he had not been doing much of that night. He faked east, too a few steps west, no handoff, no lateral, no pass, 10 long steps, knocking down one Hallsville defender in process and leapt, football clutching arms extended, the last yard past Stinson, Hallsville’s last defender, for the touchdown.
The board read 24-18, Centralia.
The Panther pile-driver defense held off Hallsville for the rest of the OT.
“At this point in the season it’s win or go home,” Justin Conyers, Hallsville Head Football Coach Justin Conyers said afterward. “Up 12 points late in the fourth, I thought we had what it took to finish the ballgame, but we just didn’t finish.”
Next Friday, 7 p.m., the 9-1 Panthers play the 8-2 Moberly Spartans at Moberly in the district semi-final.
Centralia’s defense held Hallsville to 246 yards, 89 rushing and 157 passing.
Centralia’s offense took 321 yards, 163 passing and 158 rushing.
Caballero led the offense with three touchdowns, rushing for 11 yards in 15 attempts.
Beau Hatton rushed for 21 yards in two attempts, Bennett went 12 in eight and Brayden Decker 10 in three.
Bennett passed for 162 yards in 24 attempts with 16 completions and one interception.
Rex Bryson led the defense with 12 tackles, eight solo and four assisted. Emery Mast made nine, five solo and four assisted. Hatton and Ian Tuggle each had six, both were four and two.
Bryson had one sack, Mast two, Tuggle two. Ashton Price and Jameson Cooper also had one sack each.
For more, see next week’s edition of the Centralia Fireside Guard.