In most seasons, last year’s Centennial team would have brought a golden ball home.
In most seasons.
Last year was anything but typical, though, as the Cougars found themselves less than twenty miles from an Independence team that won the title and probably could win every year.
Despite a school record twelve victories, Centennial’s two losses came to Indy, the last in the Class 5A state semi-final game.
At the end of the season the school’s first Tennessee Titans Mr. Football, Tyrell Dodson, moved on to Texas A & M; head coach Brian Rector, who reenergized the program, left for Father Ryan.
Where many would see negatives, new head coach Matt Kriesky sees the positives.
“They’ve got the ball rolling here and we’re going to continue that.
“We’re young in a lot of areas, but we’re getting better every day. And that’s what we tell the kids, just get better every day.”
In addition to Dodson, the Cougars lost Nate Wilkinson and the Pisacane brothers, Petyton and Tristan. But the cupboard was not bare.
Two-way standout Devious Christmon returns at receiver and cornerback. The 6-3, 180-pound senior lived up to his name last year, surprising more than one team with big plays.
“He’s a really good corner. It’s a position I believe he could play at the next level if he continues to develop.”
Kriesky also got a pleasant surprise with Austin Waddell, who the coach calls, “…my quarterback on the field on defense. He’s a very intelligent young man who knows the game of football. It’s like having a coach on the field.”
The defensive line will be a platoon effort early and Clay Carder returns to his linebacker spot.
On offense, the Cougars have been looking for a true quarterback since JJ Tomlin’s last throw at Clarksville Northeast in 2012. Kriesky may have found one in junior Tre Stewart.
“Tre has grown tremendously and matured as both a person and a football player,” said the coach. “He comes to work every day and he wants to get better.”
If Stewart needs to throw he’ll some excellent athletes to look for. Christmon will be out on the corner as will senior Senturian DuReaux (6-0, 175) and junior Tavion Fleming (5-7, 135). Kriesky hopes to see the three get the ball in space to unleash their athleticism.
Besides receiver, DuReaux, who has taken snaps at quarterback, will be a very busy player, according to Kriesky.
“Don’t be surprised to see Senturian in the backfield. He’s a very athletic kid who is going to be on the field 99% of the time on both sides of the ball.”
Up front the Cougars will depend on four-year starter senior Eli Katina (6-2, 271), Nick Bell (6-1, 230) and Ryan Staples (6-2, 218).
Kriesky sees the year as one to build on the success of the last several and he’s demanding it be done as a team.
“It’s going to be a total team effort. We’ll have eleven guys on the field with one common goal-to go out and compete, do our best and hopefully win some ballgames. I don’t think you’ll see week to week one guy just steal the show. It’s going to be a team effort and that’s how we will win ballgames.”