Centennial's second game against a highly-rated team from Chandler went according to plan in almost every respect that the first contest did not.
Eight days after a 41-21 loss to Chandler was on COX 7 TV for the state to see, a chastened group of Coyotes grabbed control at home against Chandler Basha, taking an 18-0 halftime lead.
Basha rebounded to draw within eight twice in the second half, but when challenged Centennial went back to its offensive line and tailback Dedrick Young. The 200-pound junior rushed for four touchdowns and 233 yards on 19 carries.
"My line's great. They've been working hard every day in practice. I'm just going through the holes they're making for me," Young said. "We were getting that ball and using the ground and pound like we like to do and keeping the clock management on our side."
Young and senior Matt Rodriguez grounded the potent Basha (1-1) offense in the first half, holding the Bears to one first down and only 17 offensive plays by halftime. Meanwhile, the home team rolled up 147 yards on 20 carries.
Less than four minutes after kickoff Young burst into the clear for a 50-yard touchdown on an off tackle play. A botched extra point try left the score at 6-0 Coyotes.
The defense forced a three and out. Junior backup quarterback Daniel Smith, in for senior Jordan Suydam, who broke his collarbone at Chandler, completed two passes for first downs on Centennial's second drive.
Then Young lined up in the slot, circled back unto the backfield and took a pitch from Smith before weaving through the defense on a 36-yard scoring run. The two-point conversion failed, but Centennial led 12-0 at the end of the quarter.
"Any time the offensive line in doing what they're supposed to do and we don't get ourselves in trouble with penalties, it's nice to go at that pace. That 1970s pace," Centennial coach Richard Taylor said. "They didn't have the ball a whole lot. They didn't get a chance to get into high gear and show use everything they have, and they've got a lot."
Centennial stalled on its next two drives, as an intentional grounding call at the Basha 19 pushed the Coyotes out of field goal range.
The Bears remained stuck in neutral, as the defense stuffed senior Rajhan Meriwether - eight yards on eight carries before halftime. Senior quarterback Zach Werlinger had little time to throw. Junior defensive end Micah Navarette picked up three first-half sacks.
"When we were watching film we noticed how much slower and bigger their offensive linemen were, so coach really wanted to utilize me in special stunts and blitzes," Navarette said. "I was getting my speed around the corner and the inside."
His final sack came with slightly more than a minute left in the half and forced the Bears to punt from their 17.
Several Coyotes broke through and junior Dominic Cochrane blocked the punt. Senior Tyler Simpson recovered the ball in the end zone, giving Centennial its halftime lead after another missed extra point.
“We just played horrible and got our butts whipped. They wanted to play and we didn’t, apparently,” said Basha coach Bernie Busken. “That’s my fault.”
Werlinger cranked up the Bears’ no-huddle short passing game in the second half, throwing 29 passes after halftime and completing 16 of them for 132 yards and two scores.
He carved up the Coyotes to start the second half, marching the Bears 71 yards on 15 plays. Werlinger sucked in the defense in on a play fake and lobbed a tree-yard touchdown to senior tight end Trey Nall.
"He's a really good quarterback, and a tough kid. He took a couple big hits," Taylor said.
But Basha could not draw closer than eight points.
Senior defensive lineman Tyler Martin blocked Centennial's punt shortly after the scoring pass, but Young's third-down sack of Werlinger stopped the drive in the red zone. A 34-yard field goal by junior Cade Thompson cut the lead to 18-10 with 2:59 remaining in the third quarter.
Centennial thwarted the Bears’ fourth-down attempt from the Coyote 37, whith 8:51 remaining.
"I was really pleased with the way the defense responded from last week and I think our boys were embarrassed. It's been a long time since somebody hung 41 on it - a lot of credit goes to Chandler," Taylor said. "But we didn't play very good assignment football. We worked on it all week and I'm really happy they played like that."
On the ensuing drive, Young busted outside for an 18-yard gallop on third and one. He followed that by taking a draw and running untouched straight up the gut on the decisive 36-yard touchdown.
“My fullback hit the linebacker. My center went up. It was wide open and I just hit it,” Young said.
Werlinger answered three minutes later with an 11-yard touchdown toss on a slant to junior receiver Jared Schmidt. Centennial recovered the onside kick and Young slammed the door, ripping off runs of 20 and 27 yards to set up a four-yard scoring run in the final minute.
The Coyotes did not dwell on the debacle at Chandler this week, and they have little time to bask in their bounce-back win. Thursday, Centennial visits the third of three Division I top 10 teams in it's season opening gauntlet, Brophy Prep (1-1).