Centralia wins, 26-20
The sky was the color of a blueberry parfait, with streaks of whipped cream and strawberries.
The air was like a heavy, wet hand that never released its humid grip.
It was Centralia varsity football’s 2022 season opener.
By the time the sky had darkened and the air had cooled, the Centralia Panthers football team enjoyed the parfait, in the form of a 26-20 win over the visiting Hallsville Indians.
They earned their dessert.
And the sweets almost went home with the Indians.
Led by first year starter quarterback Colton Nichols, the Indians dominated the first quarter and if not for Centralia rolling out another example of comeback football, they would have won the game.
At the end of the first, Hallsville led 12-0, courtesy of two Colton Nichols touchdown runs.
Centralia rebounded hard in the second, with the Panthers’ Iron Wall defense shutting down Hallsville while Panther quarterback Cullen Bennet completed a six-yard touchdown pass to Jack Romine, then handed the ball to Kyden Wilkerson, who charged 75 yards for Centralia’s second touchdown.
Breylen Whisler topped off the half at the 2:17 mark with a 1 yard blast-through the Indian defense to make it 20-12 Centralia going into halftime.
Neither team scored in the third, though Centralia came very close with a late quarter drive that ended two-yards short of the goal post.
That changed at 5:42 in the third. Much like Evander Hollyfield once showed Mike Tyson, Hallsville’s offense said “I can hit you,” when Nichols handed off to Gauge Harbison. Harbison took it nine yards around the east side for a touchdown. Nichols followed up for the only successful two-point conversion of the game to tie it at 20-20.
“I knew we had to find a way,” Centralia Panther Head Coach Tyler Forsee said of the team’s mindset when Hallsville pounded their way back into the game. “We had a little momentum going and Hallsville took it back. I knew our kids were going to have to step up or not. It was a good test for them. I was very confident in the way our O-line was playing that we could control them at the line of scrimmage. We just had to not shoot ourselves in the foot with fumble or holding penalties. I was confident, you could tell from the look in our kids’s eyes, they were confident… That makes things a lot easier. We just had to call the plays… They just accelerated; one, we’re in pretty good shape’ two, we’re playing a lot of people; and three, we’ve got some tough kids. If we keep playing like we’ve been, we’re going to be tough to beat.”
For the complete article, see next week’s edition of the Centralia Fireside Guard