PEORIA — The Centennial Coyotes got back to basics by feasting on turnovers, rushing for five touchdowns and watching their kicker enjoy a “career night” in a punishing 46-20 homecoming victory over the Shadow Ridge Stallions on Friday night at Coyotes Field.
Centennial’s dynamic duo in the backfield — senior James Scott and junior Kavaughn Clark — ran tough behind an improving offensive line while junior kicker Brysen Gardner went 4/4 on field goals — three of them longer than 40 yards as the Coyotes snapped a rare two-game losing streak.
“I was pleased with the outcome and pleased with our intensity but we have to cut down on our penalties,” Centennial Head Coach Richard Taylor said after the win. “We started slow offensively but we still got points thanks to Brysen and that was huge.”
Indeed, the Coyotes felt maybe they missed some early opportunities to jump ahead as the Stallions first three possessions ended in an interception by the Coyotes’ Marvuan Green, a lost fumble by Stallions QB Micah Hendricks and a botched punt gifting the ball to Centennial in the red zone.
The Coyotes didn’t fully capitalize, though, as each drive stalled and Centennial called on Gardner to put points on the board.
His first kick was good from 42 yards and would’ve been good from 50-plus:
Two turnovers early by the Stallions but Centennial only gets a pair of field goals from @BrysenGardner - from 42 yards (below) and 45 yards.@SRHSFootball1 0@Cehsfootball 6— Matt Loeschman (@MattLoeschman) October 2, 2021
6:25 - 1st Quarter#AzPreps365 #WestValleyPreps @AzNewsmedia pic.twitter.com/QgczR9Nkkn
Gardner followed with successful field goals from 45 yards and 33 yards to give Centennial a 9-0 lead late in the first quarter.
“I felt great. I was sticking to my fundamentals thanks to my coaches,” Gardner explained. “I appreciate my teammates having the confidence in me to kick field goals from those distances.”
Taylor and his staff dialed up some “trickeration” on the ensuing kickoff. Gardner angled an onside kick to the left side and it worked perfectly as sophomore Ricky Munoz snared the loose ball after it bounced ahead 10 yards.
“That was planned,” Gardner said. “I liked what I saw on that side and I managed to put it right in the gap.”
With the Shadow Ridge defense still wondering how they were back on the field so quickly, Clark and Scott went to work on the ground. Scott eventually capped a 7-play, 46-yard drive with a 1-yard TD run:
Coyotes’ Ricky Muñoz recovers an onside kick and it leads to a 1-yard TD run by @James_Scott24x. Gardner PAT good.@SRHSFootball1 0@Cehsfootball 16— Matt Loeschman (@MattLoeschman) October 2, 2021
11:21 - 2nd Quarter#AzPreps365 #WestValleyPreps @AzNewsmedia pic.twitter.com/zAFOj8lJD3
Gardner hit the PAT to give Centennial a 16-0 lead with 11:21 to go before halftime.
Hendricks, subbing for an injured Seth Gallardo, was struggling to move the Stallions offense.
Running back Anthony Garcia got multiple touches but SRHS could manage just six plays before a 10-yard punt set up the Coyotes near midfield.
After a penalty to start the CeHS drive, it took just four plays before Clark rushed in from four yards away:
10-yard punt by SRHS. @kavaughn_clark goes 4 yards to finish the drive. Gardner PAT good.@SRHSFootball1 0@Cehsfootball 23— Matt Loeschman (@MattLoeschman) October 2, 2021
6:20 - 2nd Quarter#AzPreps365 #WestValleyPreps @AzNewsmedia pic.twitter.com/dtyuFZXBP3
“We did what we had to do tonight,” Clark said after the game. “We are all starting to get better as a team. The offensive line is finding their mojo and we are getting back into that ‘Centennial groove.’”
Gardner’s PAT made it 23-0 midway through the second quarter.
The Coyotes defense was firing on all cylinders, pressuring Hendricks and forcing a three-and-out.
Centennial quarterback Austin Glimpse then made his best throw all night, a 45-yard strike to Munoz who was cutting across the middle.
Following a false start, Scott would not be denied from 15 yards out:
Coyotes’ Ricky Muñoz catches a 45-yard pass from @AustinGlimpse. @James_Scott24x then won’t be denied from 15 yards out. 2-point conversion fails.@SRHSFootball1 0@Cehsfootball 29— Matt Loeschman (@MattLoeschman) October 2, 2021
3:31 - 2nd Quarter#AzPreps365 #WestValleyPreps @AzNewsmedia pic.twitter.com/np9loeoQQP
“We wanted to get that energy back tonight,” Scott said. “And we did it.”
Taylor said his staff was making adjustments on the fly.
“Shadow Ridge gave us a little different look than what we were thinking,” Taylor said. “Credit to our coaches for adjusting to that.”
Centennial failed on a 2-point try. The Stallions showed some fight late in the half as Hendricks completed a 56-yard bomb to Isaac Yates, setting up an 11-yard TD run by Garcia. Chase Tornberg made the PAT but Shadow Ridge still trailed 29-7 at the break.
A big kickoff return by Drew Lopez to start the second half set the stage for Gardner’s fourth made field goal, a 40-yarder that gave Centennial a 32-7 lead early in the third.
Shadow Ridge moved the ball on its next series with Garcia and Robert Grier getting the touches but the drive stalled as Hendricks was dropped a yard short on 4th-and-6 at the CeHS 35.
The Stallions forced a three-and-out and got back on the board with a 14-play drive capped by a 1-yard plunge by Hendricks. The quarterback appeared to be short of the line but officials signaled a touchdown:
Gardner now 4/4 on FG. SRHS’ Hendricks then dives in for an apparent TD. PAT good. @SRHSFootball1 14@Cehsfootball 32— Matt Loeschman (@MattLoeschman) October 2, 2021
11:55 - 4th Quarter#AzPreps365 #WestValleyPreps @AzNewsmedia pic.twitter.com/nMje6ryp0u
Tornberg’s PAT brought SRHS within 32-14 at the 11:55 mark of the fourth quarter.
Clark was not done, scoring on a 1-yard plunge less than 3 minutes later:
An interception by Centennial’s Braxton Manusina set up Clark for a 10-yard TD rush where the running back darted to the left then cut back all the way to the right to elude the Stallions defense and get to the end zone. Gardner ended his memorable night with another PAT to make to 46-14.
Garcia capped the scoring with a rushing touchdown with six minutes left in the game.
Centennial coaches said after the contest they believe Gardner’s four successful kicks set a new 6A state record for made field goals in one game.
“It just felt great to get a win,” Gardner said.
Perhaps the only negative on the night for the home team was double-digit penalties.
“Those will kill you in close games,” Taylor said. “We have to be more disciplined.”
And as if his two-TD performance wasn’t enough, Scott picked up a crown at halftime as the 2021 Centennial Homecoming King.
“It just means my offensive line blocked great and the students love me,” Scott joked.
Clark added three rushing scores for the Coyotes.
Shadow Ridge (3-2) has a bye next week before traveling to O’Connor on Oct. 15.
Centennial (2-3) faces another stiff test as Williams Field (3-1) comes to Peoria on Friday, Oct. 8 for a 7 p.m. kickoff. Athletes that transferred in from other schools will be eligible to play.
“We try to go 2-0 now,” Taylor said of the mindset in practice this week. “Erase the board, start over and prepare for a very good team.”