Center is pushed to the limit
By David Svoboda PrepsKC staff writer
It wasn’t exactly according to script, but Center rode a wild fourth-quarter sequence to a 35-25 win over Odessa in the opening round of the Missouri Class 3 playoffs.
After watching Odessa, which ended its season at 4-6, grab a momentary 25-20 lead with 10:38 left in the game, Center ripped off 15 points over the next 4:11 to grab the victory.
The Yellowjackets, now 8-2, were pushed to the limit by the Bulldogs, which didn’t surprise Center Coach Brian DeLong one bit.
“When you look at the schedule they (Odessa) play, you know they’re a tough football team,” he said. “And we saw that tonight.”
What DeLong and those in attendance saw was a fairly even game that swung in favor of Center almost immediately after Odessa took its first lead since early in the game.
The Bulldogs had just converted on an improbable fourth and 27 from the Center 28 with a jump ball touchdown pass to take the 25-20 lead when the ensuing kickoff produced what became the game-winning score for Center.
After having trouble finding the handle on the kick, Center’s Gage King corralled it and zipped up the home sideline for a 79-yard touchdown. Yep, that Odessa lead was gone nearly as quickly as it was garnered, with a two-point conversion pass making it 28-25 Center.
“Gage King made a huge play there, and the fumble may have even helped him a little bit,” DeLong said, suggesting that the bobble may have frozen the Odessa coverage unit momentarily.
And if Odessa was frozen in that instant, they were shocked just two offensive plays later.
On the second play from scrimmage for the Bulldogs, the ball was turned back over to Center on a fumble.
It took the Jackets just 3:37 to march 57 yards on eight plays for the night’s final touchdown, a 3-yard run by Anthony Eskridge that made it 35-25. Center held on over the game’s final six-plus minutes for the win.
Eskridge ended the night with 90 yards on 14 carries to pace the Center offensive attack. Odessa’s John Landis had 22 carries for 85 yards in nearly matching Eskridge’s effort.
Those watching should have expected a crazy final quarter after watching a first half that was nearly as eventful.
Odessa grabbed an early 7-0 lead with an impressive 11-play, 74-yard march to the end zone. The drive was capped when QB JW McGraw hit fellow senior Brandon Hall with a 32-yard pitch and catch on third and seven with 5:41 left in the opening quarter.
Center got it tied at 7-7 just over a minute into the second quarter when quarterback Ronnie Hill scrambled to recover a botched snap, rolled right and rumbled down the far sideline for a 28-yard score. The short-field, 38-yard Yellowjacket drive was made possible by a poor, 13-yard punt by Odessa just three plays before the score.
The Jackets increased their lead to 14-7 with 8:53 left in the first half when Hill hit Nick Williams with a 58-yard bomb on a second and seven call.
Odessa proved it wasn’t going down without a fight when it went on a 14-play, 65-yard drive that ate 6:17 of the remaining time in the half and ended in a touchdown.
McGraw hit Trevor Plafcan on a 10-yard TD toss on a roll to the right and throw back to the left, and the Bulldogs appeared poised to draw even at 14. The PAT kick was blocked, however, and Center held on to its lead at 14-13. It would be that way at the half.
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