CENTRALIA — They were only the first two possessions of the game, but boy did they set the tone for how things were going to go in Friday night’s Class 1A state semifinal game between Centralia and Jackson Heights.
Heights got the ball first and went three-and-out.
Centralia got the ball and drove 50 yards in 14 plays for a touchdown.
Simply put, Centralia was more than up to the task of matching Heights’ physical style. In fact, the Panthers were the ones doing the pushing around most of the night, rolling to a 44-6 victory that punched their first trip back to the state championship game in Hays since capturing the 2013 state crown.
“We just wore on them,” Centralia coach Larry Glatczk said. “They’re big, they’re physical and our kids just outquicked them and we've got a lot of heart. It was just a great team effort all around.”
Centralia (11-1) won its 11th straight game and will take on No. 1 Smith Center (12-0), which got a late touchdown to edge Plainville 20-19 in Friday’s other semifinal.
All season long, Heights has ridden a huge, experienced offensive line and three-headed backfield to run over foes to the tune of 375.5 rushing yards per game. But with Centralia showing a modified look up front designed to counter the Cobras’ size with its quickness, the Panthers never let Heights really get any footing until it was too late.
Heights finished the game with 182 yards on the ground, half of its season average.
“It was a team effort and we were able to shut them down,” Centralia linebacker Austin Holhaus said. “Sometimes it’s not about the size, it’s about the determination in your brain.”
The Cobras’ lone score came when Heights went to a spread offense and created space for standout tailback Cooper Williams. He needed just four plays to author an 80-yard touchdown drive, capping it with a 9-yard touchdown run.
“I should have went to the spread in the first half so that’s a mistake on my part,” Heights coach Caleb Wick said. “We just didn’t block very good up front. Credit to them because they were the better team tonight.”
Heights’ score didn’t come until the third quarter and cut Centralia’s lead to 22-6, giving Heights a hint of life. But it was quickly extinguished as a botched unintentional onside kick was scooped up by Panther Ian Haverkamp at the Cobra 48 and returned for a touchdown to get the Cobras’ lone score right back.
Big plays have been a staple for the Centralia offense all season, but it took awhile for the Panthers to break one. And when they did, it was from a somewhat unlikely source.
Leading 6-0 after Haverkamp’s initial touchdown, Centralia took a 14-0 halftime lead when Corbin Becker, who had just 15 carries all season, took a reverse pitch from Devon Feldkamp and raced 59 yards for his first touchdown run of the season.
“We saw they were flowing so hard so the reverse was open,” Glatczak said. “The kids blocked it perfectly.”
That run seemed to open the floodgates and Centralia scored on three of four second-half possessions. Kamble Haverkamp raced 59 yards on the first play of the second half to make it 26-0 and after Ian Haverkamp’s kickoff return score, Kamble used a 42-yard run to set up another score, hitting Feldkamp on a 14-yard touchdown pass on fourth-and-10.
Haverkamp finished the game with 188 yards on 20 carries, gaining 143 of it in the second half. Centralia ran for 321 yards overall.
Williams finished with 140 yards rushing for Heights, which finished the season 9-3, advancing to the state semifinals for the first time since 1983.
“We had a great senior class and they did a great job for Jackson Heights,” Wick said. “They had maybe the biggest win in Jackson Heights beating Colgan last week. But you’ve got to get over the hump and we couldn’t do it tonight. Centralia had a lot to do with that.”
CENTRALIA 44, JACKSON HEIGHTS 6
Centralia — K. Haverkamp 1 run (run failed)
Centralia — Becker 59 run (K. Haverkamp run)
Centralia — K. Haverkamp 59 run (K. Haverkamp run)
Heights — Co. Williams 9 run (run failed)
Centralia — I. Haverkamp 47 kickoff return (run failed)
Centralia — Feldkamp 14 pass from K. Haverkamp (Becker pass from K. Haverkamp)
Centralia — Quigley 6 run (K. Haverkamp run)
Rushing — Heights: Co. Williams 22-140, Thompson 9-46, Bosley 9-17, Wareham 5-minus 21. Centralia: K. Haverkamp 20-188, Feldkamp 15-51, I. Haverkamp 4-14, Becker 2-62, Quigley 1-6.
Passing — Heights: Bosley 1-1-0, 25 yards. Centralia: K. Haverkamp 1-34-0, 14 yards.
Receiving — Heights: Co. Wiliams 1-25. Centralia: Feldkamp 1-14.