Centennial runs past Apollo in Glendale
Centennial's offense got off to a fast start as the Coyotes drove the ball 80 yards down the field, running the ball 9 out of 10 times. After gashing the Hawks defense for 11 yards and then 5 yards on running plays, Centennial senior Jalen Ortiz broke a 40-yard run, setting up a 1-yard touchdown run for junior running back Dedrick Young, putting the Coyotes up 7-0.
Just before the packed house could regain their breath, Centennial senior safety Kyle Mack intercepted Apollo junior quarterback Jordan Gungi on a deep ball down the sideline. With a bevy of blockers in front of him, Mack turned on the speed, and returned it 45 yards for a touchdown, giving Centennial a quick 14-0 lead.
With time winding down in the first quarter and the crowd already growing weary, Apollo showed some mental toughness and put together a beautiful drive. After Gungi hit a couple big passes to Apollo senior wide receiver Abe Mendivil, he then hit senior wide receiver Braxton Nickerson for an 18-yard touchdown pass, cutting the deficit to just 14-7.
But, on the ensuing kickoff, Centennial junior wide receiver Oche' Meyers received the kick at his own 1-yard line, he then made one cut, hit a seam, and turned on the jets, returning it 99 yards to the house. This completely stripped all the momentum Apollo had just gained from their last drive, increasing the Coyotes lead to 21-7.
After a quick three and out for the Hawks' offense, it was the Coyotes senior quarterback Tre Grant who showed off his running ability and put Centennial up 28-7 by scampering into the end zone from 46 yards out.
"Once we saw their ends were crashing, we started running our zone reads, and they ended up turning into some big runs", said Grant.
Just when it seemed like things could not get any worse for Apollo, their offense stalled out deep in their own territory and during the punt the snap was botched and recovered by the Coyotes on the Hawks 10-yard line.
After an 8-yard run by Grant, junior Centennial running back Amare Burks powered the ball past the goal line for a 2-yard touchdown score, giving the Coyotes a lopsided 35-7 lead in only the second quarter.
Apollo didn't quit though, and the Hawks showed a lot of heart for a football team that was taking a pretty hefty beating. The Hawks pulled it together and managed a couple quick scoring drives before halftime, and despite Centennial scoring yet another touchdown before half, the Hawks had cut the lead to 42-20 at half.
Centennial then came out after halftime and put on show, both defensively and offensively. The defense did not give up another point, and the offense ran the ball at will against an Apollo squad that was noticeably worn down by a powerful Centennial team.
"The offensive line started out so strong for us so we just kept running, they set the tone for us early," Centennial coach Richard Taylor said of his running game.
The highlight play of the second half came for Centennial when Ortiz had an electrifying 48-yard touchdown run that put the Coyotes up 49-20.
"It was a zone read play," Ortiz said. "Nothing was there, so I cut back, it opened up, and Shawn Poindester had a great block downfield that helped me house it".
Centennial would go on to score three more touchdowns during the second half to provide the winning margin for the Coyotes against the previously undefeated Hawks, who entered the night as the #3 team in the Division II Power Rankings.