The visiting Cougars got it done in the second half Friday, beating county rival Sullivan East 28-14 in a Region 1-4A slugfest that could have gone either way for much of the evening.
Central, which toppled East last season to break a 36-game losing streak, was not about to allow the winless Patriots (0-7, 0-4) to even the score in 2019.
View Cheryl Gray’s photos from the game
“Some of these kids have played against each other since they were 6 and 7 years old and there are a lot of bragging rights on the table,” said Central coach Chris Steger, whose school will join Sullivan South and Sullivan North in 2021 to form West Ridge High. “People make memories in these games.”
Central quarterback Will Nottingham, who threw three touchdown passes to wide receiver Bryson Crabtree, put it succinctly.
“No way we were going to lose after what happened last year,” the junior said. “We broke our streak against them and we didn’t come here to lose tonight.”
OWNING THE SECOND HALF
Central (2-5, 1-2) pretty well dominated the second half after the teams went into the locker room at intermission tied at 14.
Spearheaded by senior end Austin Bibee, the Cougars held the Patriots under 50 yards over the final two quarters.
“We went in at half and we really challenged them about our tackling, and in the second half I thought we brought some fight and wrapped up much better,” Steger said. “Our defense really stepped up and got hats on the football.”
COUGARS MAKE PLAYS OFFENSIVELY
It seemed as though whenever the Cougars needed to make a play, Nottingham always found someone to catch the football.
He threw first-half touchdown passes of 10 and 22 yards to Crabtree, and a 14-yard connection between the pair gave the Cougars the lead for good, 21-14, with 3:20 remaining in the third quarter.
The duo provided the equalizer with the 22-yard hookup, which occurred just 35 seconds before halftime and wiped out the 14-7 edge that East had gained with only 1:09 left in the second period. A 39-yard completion from Nottingham to Cameron Lambert set up that TD.
“We saw a mismatch on film with certain pass routes and it all worked out pretty good tonight, especially with Bryson and three touchdowns,” Nottingham said. “We had a good offensive game plan.”
Nottingham completed 12 of 18 passes for 174 yards and ran 13 times for 50 yards. Crabtree caught four balls for 52 yards and Lambert four for 65.
Joey Byrd, who ran 15 times for 102 yards, iced the cake for Central with a 19-yard TD run with 47 seconds left in the game.
EAST MOVES IT EARLY
The Patriots, who produced 210 total offensive yards to Central’s 335, ran the ball well in the first half, but the second half was a different story.
East gained a 7-0 lead on a 11-yard touchdown pass from Dylan White to Blake Scher and a 14-7 advantage on a 16-yard scoring run by Eric Hare.
“Hats off to Central, which played great and played hard,” East coach Mike Locke said. “I don’t know, maybe I got a little too conservative down close that last time (when East stalled at the Central 6 midway through the fourth period). We’ve been in the same situation a few times this year and we just can’t seem to finish, and ‘finish’ is the key word there.”
Hunter Brown ran for 80 yards on nine carries for East. Scher had five catches for 41 yards.