With a heavy blanket of fog covering Wolfpack Stadium, the Warriors fought to a 14-7 win over Mountain 7 District co-champion Ridgeview in the Region 2D semifinals.
Central, which will be playing in the 9-year-old school’s first regional championship in program history, will face Graham next Saturday at 2 p.m. at Mitchell Stadium in Bluefield, W.Va.
“DEFENSE WINS GAMES”
The Warriors (10-2) used a ball-control offense to jump ahead 14-0 in the first half. In the second half, Central’s defense answered the call several times, limiting Ridgeview to seven points and elite running back Trenton Adkins to 108 total rushing yards and one touchdown.
“Defense wins games in November,” said Central coach Luke Owens. “We’re primarily 10th-graders and that bunch has grown up so much over the course of the year. Nobody thought we were going to win last week when Richlands came to the house and I’m sure nobody in Southwest Virginia, except for us, believed we were going to beat this crowd.
“The kids played hard and defensively. I thought our defensive coordinator, Jason Blevins, had a good game for them and we carried it out well.”
The fog was so thick the teams could not see each other on their sidelines across the field. Owens said it did not affect his team too much.
“I thought we saw pretty good. We’re going to line up and we’re going to come at you. So we’re not going to throw the ball down the field too many times,” the coach said. “The kids battled. They battled, battled, battled. I couldn’t be prouder of my kids and the coaches.”
Central’s first drive ate up nearly half of the opening quarter and ended with quarterback Ethan Mullins’ 55-yard touchdown run.
Mullins had dropped back to pass but through the fog saw an open running lane. Seconds later, he was in the end zone and the Warriors led 7-0.
“I didn’t see any of my receivers open and I saw an open field up the middle so I figured I would take off,” Mullins said.
Mullins was also part of the defensive unit that held the Wolfpack to minus-2 yards in the first half.
“We wanted this game pretty bad,” the sophomore said. “I’m very proud of our defense. All 11 of us attacked the ball every play.”
Central took a 14-0 lead with 9:36 left in the first half on C.J. Crabtree’s 3-yard touchdown run. Crabtree’s 76-yard rushing total led a balanced Central ground attack that also saw Noah Bolling run for 71 yards.
Ridgeview’s touchdown came on its first drive of the second half. Adkins carried the ball seven times on an 11-play, 81-yard march that ended with his 3-yard run.
Adkins then gave the Wolfpack a golden opportunity for another score when he intercepted a pass in Ridgeview territory and returned it to the Central 21. After Adkins took the ball to the 18 on the next play, Ridgeview went with a quarterback run and two pass plays that stopped the drive and gave the ball back to the Warriors.
Ridgeview coach Rick Mullins said Adkins didn’t get the ball more on that drive because the star running back was fatigued.
“After that interception, he came out. He was just wore out,” Mullins noted. “He came out one play and that’s when we ran the quarterback.”
Mullins said Central’s domination in the first half was the difference in the outcome.
“They controlled the ball the first half. I think we had three possessions in the first half,” he said. “They did what they needed to in the first half and we came back and battled in the second half and just came up a little bit short.”