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Centennial holds off Stockdale to post first victory of season

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Apr. 10—It wasn’t a thing of beauty, but second-year Centennial coach Richard Starrett is happy just the same.

The Golden Hawks shook off a shaky offensive performance and overcame three turnovers and nearly 100 yards in penalties to hold off visiting Stockdale 20-14 on Friday night at Centennial.

“I’ll take a win by one point or one million at this point,” Starrett said. “So it feels good to win and our kids earned it and they deserved it, and it’s time to get better.”

With the game tied 14-14, the Mustangs (0-1) forced Centennial to punt and took over at their own 13 with 3:10 to play.

But after nearly throwing an interception on first down, Stockdale quarterback Jose Saenz’s backward pass was dropped and ruled a fumble. Centennial recovered and took over possession on the 7-yard line with 2:56 left. The following play, Tristan Flores scampered into the end zone to put the Golden Hawks on top 20-14. The extra point was blocked.

The Mustangs looked to receive a boost on the ensuing kickoff when Jayden Hollis broke loose along the right sideline and took the ball near midfield, but the ball popped loose on the play on a hit by Cayden Boen, and the Golden Hawks recovered.

But while trying to run out the clock, Centennial’s Anthony Barajas fumbled, giving Stockdale another chance with 2:20 to play. Unfortunately for them, the Mustangs were unable to move the ball and gave it back to the Golden Hawks on a fourth-down incomplete pass. Out of timeouts, Stockdale was unable to stop the clock, and three plays later the game was over.

“This league is never easy and it doesn’t matter which week it is or what team it is, it’s going to be a dogfight; it’s going to be a battle,” Starrett said. “There’s going to be two well-coached teams on the field and there was tonight.”

Centennial (1-2) made the most of its opportunities, and won despite gaining just 93 yards from scrimmage.

Trailing 7-0 midway through the second quarter, the Golden Hawks received a spark when sophomore Noe Estrada returned a punt 46 yards before being tackled at the Stockdale 13. Four plays later, Barajas scored the first of two 3-yard touchdown runs to tie the game at 7-7 with 6:11 left in the first half.

Centennial benefited from a botched punt on the Mustangs’ next possession, leading to another Barajas TD run with 2:14 left in the first half.

“It feels good for these seniors to get a win and for us to just keep getting better,” Starrett said. “That’s exactly what it’s about.”

Stockdale took its opening possession of the second half and marched 73 yards on eight plays, tying the game at 14-14 on a 26-yard touchdown pass from Saenz to Hollis with 6:45 left in the third quarter. Hollis finished with 67 yards receiving on six catches. Teammate Larry Brown had six catches for 40 yards.

Saenz, who finished 14 of 24 passing for 136 yards, opened the game’s scoring with a 24-yard touchdown run with 1:31 left in the first quarter. Fullback Jaykob Jones rushed for 58 yards on 18 carries.

“Obviously, first-game blips,” Stockdale coach Brett Shelton said. “There were a couple of practices we weren’t able to have because of what happened to us. But these kids showed up every day, on time, and we’re going to get it fixed. Knowing their character, we’re going to get it fixed, and like I said, I’m very proud of them.”

The Mustangs, who were also hurt by 95 yards in penalties, were unable to play the first two weeks of the season due to COVID-19 protocols. Their first game of the season against Frontier was moved to April 30 and last week’s contest against Bakersfield High was canceled.

“It’s a big deal to get back on the field and see our seniors playing,” Shelton said. “They’re playing hard, they’re showing their character. You know, we’ve had a lot of curveballs thrown our way, and to be able to come out here and compete, and show the high character that they did, and staying in it. You know adversity struck multiple times, but we still bowed up. There’s a lot to polish up obviously, protecting the ball … but when it comes to character, I can speak so highly of them.”

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