This one had a familiar ring.
In the initial meeting earlier this season, Peoria Centennial smothered Goodyear Millennium by over 50 points. In a Division II playoff rematch Friday night, Centennial, powered by a stifling defense, continued its domination with a 46-0 quarterfinal victory.
With the win, Centennial (11-1) moves into the Division II semifinals and will play Tucson Salpointe Catholic next Friday at Tucson Amphitheater.
Defense characterized this triumph, and the Centennial defense hit hard and often. So dominating and so overwhelming that the defense held the Millennium ground game to negative yardage. For the game, Millennium, on 24 carries, recorded a minus-4 yards on the ground.
“For every game, our goal is to get a shutout,” Centennial linebacker Matt Rodriguez said. “Sometimes you hit players to make the play, and other times you hit players to make a statement. (Friday night), we make a statement. Plus, we take pride in stopping the run.”
Essentially, this game was over early. Centennial scored on five of its first seven possessions of the game, and added a 42-yard field goal, aided by a strong wind, by Joe Narvarro in the final seconds of the opening half.
To put an early signature and possibly leave a calling card for deeper in the playoffs, Centennial scored its first touchdown on a short, but decisive drive. Quarterback Tre’von Grant engineered a 3-play, 55-yard march in just 31 seconds. When Jalen Ortiz scored on a 15-yard run less than five minutes into the game, Centennial appeared ready for more.
In the subsequent quarter and a half, scores from Dedrick Young on a 3-yard run, Grant hitting Shawn Poindexter on a 10-yard scoring strike, and a second score from Ortiz on a 17-yard run pushed Centennial into a 32-0 lead at intermission.
After the break, the defense joined the scoring parade.
Cornerback Adam Leonard picked off Millennium quarterback Brandon Keller and returned the pick 42 yards for a score with 10:37 left in the third period. That finished the Centennial scoring for the night, and help advance the team deeper in the playoffs.
Despite the margin of victory and tenacity of the defense, the road to Tucson remains difficult.
“There’s still a great deal of work to do,” Centennial coach Richard Taylor said. “Each of the teams left are very talented and our offense, defense and specials team all must get better. Yet, I would agree that the defense (Friday night) was very sharp.”
With two fumble recoveries and two interceptions, that brought the number of turnovers by the Centennial defense to 38 take-aways, and that established a single-season school record.
Oritz, with two touchdowns, paced the Centennial ground game with 99 yards on 10 carries. Grant finished 7-for-12 on the night through the air for 75 yards and a touchdown, and added 42 yards on the ground on seven carries.
Lavonte Hatcher led Millennium (9-3) with 25 yards on the ground on 10 carries, while the combined efforts of Stuart Rasmussen and Keller at quarterback resulted in a 7-for-26 night, 109 yards and two interceptions.