CENTERVILLE — When in need, Centerville turned to senior running back Caidenn Boss.
The veteran delivered in Centerville’s 30-22 win over rival Leon in District 9-2A Division I play Friday night at Tiger Field.
Boss ran for 232 yards on 25 carries as his two touchdowns and pair of two-point conversions in the third quarter pushed the Tigers (6-3, 5-0) past the Cougars (3-7, 3-2).
Boss busted for touchdown runs of 7 and 49 yards. His second was the decisive score with 0:49 left in the third quarter. Boss gave credit to his offensive line for opening holes and gaps.
With the win, Centerville clinched back-to-back district championships and 9-2A-I’s top-seed in the playoffs.
“I definitely felt more confident every time I touched the ball,” Boss said. “This means everything to me. Two-time defending district champs — it means the world to me.”
Leon’s last hope at a comeback was dashed as junior quarterback Jacob Robinson threw an interception on a downfield pass with 3:31 left in the game.
As Centerville huddled on the sideline, coach Kyle Hardee said the Tigers needed two touchdowns to run out the clock and clinch the win. In fitting fashion, Boss bruised his way down the field for a pair of first downs.
“Character and resiliency won the football game for us,” Hardee said. “We made some mistakes, but our kids came back and made some plays in the second half to find a way to win the football game.”
In a game of big plays from contrasting offenses, with Centerville’s Wing-T clashing with Leon’s spread attack, it was a special teams near-blunder that gave Centerville much-needed momentum.
Trailing 14-6 with 8 seconds left in the first half, Centerville was forced to throw on a 35-yard field goal attempt after a high snap. In desperation, junior quarterback Dillon Denman lofted a pass to the end zone with fellow junior Clayton Bell catching the Hail Mary in the corner of the end zone as time expired as the Tigers tied the game at 14 after a two-point conversion.
“It was big to get that play right before the half,” Hardee said. “We line up to kick a field goal and it turns into a touchdown. We needed something good to happen, because it seemed like a lot of bad had happened in the first half for us. It gave us some enthusiasm.”
Centerville struck fast, scoring on the game’s opening drive as Denman found senior receiver Cannon Robinson for a 23-yard touchdown pass.
Despite its pass-oriented attack, Leon lunged back in the second quarter with a pair of long touchdown runs to take the lead.
Senior Harris Sherrod raced around the left side for a 30-yard touchdown run, tying the game at 6 with 9:41 left in the second quarter. Later, junior Tyson Cornett was met at the line of scrimmage, but bounced off a tackler and dashed 78 yards for a score. An offside penalty on Centerville on the PAT allowed Leon to move up and go for two as the Cougars took a 14-6 lead with 4:32 left in the half.
“We told the kids Centerville’s going to come out and punch you in the teeth,” Leon coach Jeremy Colvert said. “If you sit there and punch them back and sustain that first initial blow from them and show them you’re here to play, they’re going to start making mistakes and they’re going to start questioning what’s going on because it’s not a blowout. Our kids took that to heart. They took that first initial shot with them driving down and then they starting playing.”
Leon fell short of winning a share of the 9-2A-I crown, but the Cougars are still playoff bound and will face Carlisle next Thursday at Palestine Westwood with a 7 p.m. kick.
From 0-6 to the playoffs, it’s been a long road for Leon in 2019. Colvert feels his team might be overlooked given the Cougars’ record.
“It didn’t end the way we wanted to,” Colvert said, “but I told them the road’s not over. We’re still playing next week and we’re dangerous. We’re a dangerous team.”
Centerville will face Big Sandy in the bi-district round next Friday at Palestine Westwood with a 7:30 p.m. kick. Hardee said the Tigers will celebrate their district title tonight, but it’s back to work for something bigger tomorrow.
“We know it’s sudden-death now, so we have to be ready every day,” Hardee said. “We know the reward is we get to come back to work tomorrow and watch film and get ready for a bi-district football game.”