Between the flinging mud and waving flags, Tyrel Dodson emerged with a grin.
The rest of his teammates were smiling, too.
Dodson scored three touchdowns bulldozing his way into the end zone twice in the fourth quarter to lead the Cougars into the Class 5A second round with a 20-14 playoff win Friday in Franklin.
“I got in there and tried to lead my team,” the senior Texas A&M commit said. “Everyone was down because we were down, but I was like, ‘guys, let’s go.’”
That “let’s go” was a 44-yard, tackle-breaking streak down the Cougar sideline to ignite an 80-yard game-winning Centennial drive with five minutes to play. It also might have been when Dodson scored on a 3-yard touchdown plunge minutes earlier, punching through the Southwind defense like a wrecking ball. Or maybe it was when he exploded from the middle of the field to pop Jaguar quarterback Kameron Williams on the sideline and send the surprised QB sprawling.
Take your pick.
“We challenged him at the end,” Centennial coach Brian Rector said. “When the game is on the line, your best guy has to get the ball, and you have to rely on your best guys to do what they did.”
Rector credited linemen Nate Wilkinson and Eli Katina for helping stretch gaps for Dodson to explode through. Dodson finished with 77 yards rushing on 11 carries – most of the damage coming in the final 12 minutes with his big gain and more than a half dozen ground-and-pound, bruising runs.
Mondu Sawyers added another 50 yards on the ground, but outside of some spotty offense, it was a sloppy night in the mud before the fourth quarter. There were 20 penalties called and at least three more flags thrown only to be picked up again, further slowing the game's rhythm.
Centennial led 6-0 at the break thanks to a first quarter touchdown run by Dodson, but visiting Southwind failed to produce a first down through the first 22 minutes of play.
“We had to change it up a little bit because Southwind is very athletic and fast,” Dodson said.
The Jaguars struck first in the second half on a 5-yard third-quarter run by Tyler Brewer, taking a 7-6 lead.
Dodson gave the lead back to Centennial in the fourth, but Kameron Williams vaulted over a pair of Cougars at the goal line to convert a 15-yard TD. Leading 13-12, Southwind opted for the extra point rather than going for two, to take a 14-12 edge with less than six minutes remaining.
Remember that “let’s go?”
After Dodson scored the game-winning TD, Tristan Pisacane hit a fading Ra’sean McLemore for the 2-point conversion and the 20-14 advantage. The Cougars defense then forced a turnover on downs to secure the win.
Centennial, which has won nine straight and improved to 10-1, will face Brentwood (6-5) in the second round. The Bruins blasted Memphis Central 55-7 Friday night in West Tennessee.
The Cougars won the last meeting on Oct. 9 in Brentwood, 24-10.
“They’re 10-15 minutes down the road,” Dodson said. “There’s going to be some trash-talking and some energy. If we win this, it will build our confidence way up.
It will be the third time in the last two postseasons Centennial will face a Williamson County team in the playoffs. The Cougars bested Franklin in the first round last season before falling to Ravenwood in the quarterfinals.