By SAM McGAW
Extreme Escape Games Game of the Week
Centennial (8-1, 6-0) at Henry County (5-3, 5-1), 7 p.m. Friday*
Matt Kriesky didn’t know what to expect entering his first season as head coach of the Centennial Cougars.
The team was on the heels of its best season in school history, but it lost many key starters, including 2015 Class 5A Mr. Football winner and Texas A&M linebacker Tyrel Dodson.
Despite the early adversity, the Cougars didn’t miss a beat.
From scoring two touchdowns in the final minute and a half to defeat Franklin in Week 1, to rallying from a 10-point second-half deficit to take down Rossview last week, the Cougars have gone through the gauntlet to prove their success isn’t a fluke.
They’ll have a chance to put a stamp on their regular season this Friday when they travel to Henry County to battle the Patriots for their second straight Region 7-5A title.
“I’d be lying to you if I told you I knew we’d be in this position when I first took this job,” said Kriesky, who replaced Brian Rector (Father Ryan) this past winter.
“Going into the year, we knew we had a good group of young men that were going to come out and compete each and every week. We told our kids our goal is to get better each and every week, and the wins will take care of themselves. This team never gives up. They will fight to the end.”
Centennial has leaned on running backs Zyon Lee (785 rush yds, 9 TDs) and Jariel Wilson (369 rush yds, 8 TDs) throughout the season.
Lee has rushed for 434 yards and four touchdowns over the past three games.
If he’s going to carry that production over into this week, his offensive line has to control the line of scrimmage against Henry County’s stout front-seven.
“They have 11 guys that are flying around to the football all the time,” Kriesky said. “Their defensive line is huge and it’s going to present a challenge to our offensive line. We feel like whoever is going to be the most physical team is going to win Friday.”
Wide receivers Austin Waddell and Tavion Fleming provide big-play ability to the offense through the air.
Waddell has caught 20 passes for 413 yards and four touchdowns this season, while Fleming has 18 catches for 226 yards and three touchdowns.
Fleming is also a dangerous returner. He’s averaging 16.9 yards per punt return with one touchdown.
Defensively, the key for Centennial this week is stifling Henry County’s explosive rushing attack.
Led by the trio of quarterback Savon Stewart and running backs Lukas Reynolds and Caleb McCutcheon, the Patriots average 276.6 rushing yards per game.
Henry County gained 277 yards on the ground in last week’s 38-13 loss against Brentwood.
“It’s tough to stop their rushing attack,” Kriesky said. “We’re going to have to get some extra guys in the box and hopefully slow them down a little bit. Hopefully, we can take away their rushing attack and force them to throw the ball, kind of like what Brentwood did last week.”
Sam McGaw is sports editor of Home Page Media Group. Email him at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @SamMcGawSports.