In a game billed as one of the biggest of the week, it was a story of two halves.
Peoria Centennial scored 35 second half points and pulled away for a 42-31 victory over host Peoria Liberty in a Division II, Section III game Friday night.
“This was a game the kids really wanted to win because we are in the same district,” Centennial coach Richard Taylor said. “They battled back and never stopped working hard tonight.”
Dedrick Young was the workhorse for Centennial (4-1, 2-0), carrying the ball 39 times for 312 yards and five touchdowns and the defense came up with big plays when they needed them.
Training 24-7 at halftime, Centennial came out on the first possession in the second half and marched 77 yards on nine plays, all carries by Young, ending on a 4-yard touchdown run.
“Coaches just told us to keep doing what we do,” Young said. “We just wanted to pound the ball and that is what we did in the second half.”
On Liberty’s next possession, they tried to move down field, but Tyler Wyatt was picked off by Centennial’s Amare Burks at the Liberty 28 with four seconds left in the quarter.
Three plays later, the second play in the fourth quarter, Young pounded his way up the middle on a 6-yard run, cutting the Centennial deficit to three points.
“They are a good running team and they we just couldn’t slow them down,” Liberty coach Danny Fileman said. “Young just pounded the ball at us and then broke some big runs when they needed them.”
Centennial took its first lead of the game with just over eight minutes left in the game when Young marched 7 yards up the middle, carrying four defenders with him into the end zone.
“My line gave me some huge holes to run through and I just followed their lead,” Young said.
Liberty (3-3, 1-1) answered right back two minutes later when Wyatt threw a pass to Chad Bennett who grabbed the ball at the 20-yard line, spun around the defenseive back and raced down the sideline, diving into the end zone putting Liberty back on top 31-28.
Centennial then marched 80 yards on six plays, culminating on an 18-yard run where Young raced around the outside and had four defenders on his back that he carried into the corner of the end zone.
Liberty had a chance to take the lead back when they got the ball at its own 30 yard line, but on a fourth and seven, Wyatt threw a pass that was tipped at the line. Centennial defensive lineman Bret Tonz grabbed the ball and rumbled 30 yards into the end zone to seal the victory.
“We wanted to come out and play our game and the kids really battled back in the second half,” Taylor said. “This was a big win for the kids because they really wanted to beat them.”