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Emotional road loss ends Centennial's season

The emotion was strong in coach Brian Rector’s voice following a hard-fought 48-34 loss to Clarksville Northeast last night, ending the Centennial Cougars’ season in the second round of the TSSAA football playoffs.

            “Sometimes when you end a season like this, it’s really hard to find the words,” he said after speaking with his team, “because you know you are so close and you fall barely short of getting the school and the team over the hump. As the head coach, I was not able to get this team over that hump.”

            Getting over “that hump”, moving past the second round of the playoffs, appeared as though it might happen as the underdog Cougars drew first blood, turning a fumbled punt into a 33-yard Nick Madonia field goal and a 3-0 lead less than three minutes into the contest.

            But Northeast’s Jerome Jones started a track meet on the ensuing possession, breaking free for 62 yards on the second play from scrimmage and crashing over from the 2-yard line three plays later to put the Eagles ahead 7-3.

            Centennial answered quickly as senior quarterback J.J. Tomlin fired a 60-yard strike to Bailey Wisniowski to set up first and goal at the Northeast 10-yard line. Tomlin then found the diminutive junior for an 8-yard scoring pass to put the Cougars back on top 10-7.  It was the first of four touchdown passes for Tomlin, three of them to Wisniowski.

            The Cougar defense held University of Tennessee commitment Jalen Reeves-Maybin, who had rushed for almost 1,600 yards coming into the game, at bay for most of the first quarter. But the speedster followed a second Jones touchdown with a 95-yard dash for a score one play after Tomlin was intercepted in the end zone.

            Reeves-Maybin finished the game with 344 yards and four rushing touchdowns while throwing for another.

            Centennial scored twice in the second quarter, once on a Tomlin-to-Wisniowski 34-yard hook-up that required an acrobatic effort by the receiver. Later, Tomlin hit Deon Sanders on a 6-yard pass that put the Cougars up 24-21 at the half.

            But Northeast opened the second half strong, with Reeves-Maybin scoring on a 40-yard rush to go up 28-24. The Cougars appeared ready to answer when senior Scottie Fleming broke free for 50 of his 131 yards on the night to get inside the Eagle 10. On the next play, though, Fleming fumbled the hand-off and it was recovered by Northeast. 

            On the first play after the fumble, Reeves-Maybin went 87-yards for a score to put Northeast up 34-24.

            “We made a mountain of mistakes in the second half,” Rector said “and you’re not going to do that against a team like this.”

            Centennial closed to within seven on the opening play of the fourth quarter when Madonia added a 24-yard field goal, but a touchdown pass and a scoring run from Reeves-Maybin sealed the win.  The Cougars got a final score when Tomlin hit Wisniowski again in the waning seconds of the contest.

            Tomlin should have been exhausted by the end of the night.  He threw for a potential school record 55 times, with 33 completions to six different receivers with four touchdowns and three interceptions covering 356 yards. His favorite target was Wisniowski, who caught 14 balls for 209 yards.

            Reeves-Maybin’s performance was aided by the loss of a couple Centennial starters, including senior Alex Siegler, who stalked the sideline most the night appearing ready to go into the game in just shorts and a sweatshirt.

            That attitude was one of the reasons Rector was emotional for his seniors.

            “I just love them to death.Their work ethic is phenomenal,” he said, calling each by name.  “They are a fine group of young men and those young men will be successful in life no matter what they do.”

            Centennial ends the year 7-5 overall, the second winning season in a row for the Cougars in only Rector’s second season at the helm.

Posted on: 11/10/2012


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