Entering Friday night’s District 8-A and regular season finale, both host Highland Baptist and Centerville had much on the line.
For the Bears, a win over the Bulldogs would push them into the Top 16 in Division IV and into the playoffs, which begin this week.
For Centerville, a win over the Bears would clinch a first round bye in the Class A playoffs, which begin this week.
And while the Bears played well and gave Centerville all it could handle, it was the Bulldogs who used a 172 yard, four touchdown rushing effort from Tyler Gunner to pull away and beat HBCS 48-14, clinching the bye and knocking Highland out of the postseason for the third straight year.
“They are a good team and we were missing some people tonight,” said HBCS coach Rick Hutson. “They are good at what they do. We played four Wing-T teams this year and we didn’t have near the trouble stopping them as we did tonight.
“Hats off to their coaching staff and their players. They do a great job at what they do.”
With the win, Centerville finishes the regular season with an 8-2 overall record and 3-2 in district. It is the most wins in school history and it guaranteed the Bulldogs a bye in the first round of the Class A playoffs.
CHS is expected to be the No. 5 seed in the postseason and the top eight teams in Class A get a first-round bye and will play host to a second round game in two weeks.
“This is my fifth year on the varsity team,” said Centerville junior running back Morty Frederick who finished the night with 41 yards and a touchdown rushing. “We’ve been beat down and had a losing record for many years. To be able to go 8-2 really means a lot for this town. I know that we are a young program, but I really appreciate everything that has happened this year.
“To be able to host a playoff game in a couple of weeks is incredible.”
It was also an incredible feeling for Centerville head coach Mark Millet, whose teams had gone 5-5 to previous two seasons.
“It means a lot to us and it means a lot to our kids,” Millet said. “I knew that the first three games of the season were really going to tell the tale. I really was prepared to be 0-3 and when we won, I felt like it changed the whole pattern of what we were doing.”
Centerville did what Centerville has been doing all year, running the ball down the throats of opposing defenses. The Bulldogs finished with 442 yards rushing including Gunner’s 173 yards and Dravin Guilbeaux’s 192 yards and a touchdown on the ground.
“We have to establish the run game,” Millet said. “We can throw the ball but we really haven’t been forced to do it.”
Centerville scored 14 points in each of the first three quarters and the Bulldog defense held Highland out of the endzone until the second quarter when CHS already had a big lead.
But even though Highland was down, the Bears kept coming back.
HBCS quarterback Myles Liggans threw two touchdown passes but was also intercepted once.
Still, Highland finished Hutson’s first season with a 4-6 record and just missed the postseason.
“And we had a chance to win another. We were one play away from finishing 5-5 and in the playoffs,” Hutson said. “That will be the thing we stress in the offseason, we were close now what are we going to do to get over that hump.”
Now the Bulldogs will have a week off to heal up and see which opponent will make the second round trip to the ‘Dog Pound.’
“For us to heal up, the bye will help us,” Millet said. “I don’t like sitting out a week because it can be detrimental to everything.
“But we’re going to practice this week like we are going to play Friday night.
“It will be the first home playoff game in our history, now let’s finish. We need that first playoff win, either at home or on the road. It all means a lot to us.”