Last year Centerville went undefeated at Paul Johnson Field, they won’t be repeating that this year as Centerville fell 24-10 in a physical home opener against Knoxville.
Much like last year’s game, the Centerville offense struggled to get downfield against Knoxville’s hard-nosed front seven. The running game was stifled, being held to just 77 rushing yards before their final drive, and the Big Reds weren’t able to capitalize on a couple of good looks downfield in one-on-one coverage. Some of those shots were well defended while others were dropped.
Knoxville struck first late in the opening quarter. On fourth and short, Knoxville quarterback Kieren Nichols sprinted out left and would go untouched for a 19-yard rushing touchdown to put the Panthers ahead 7-0.
Nichols showcased his speed on several occasions as he finished with 73 rushing yards on 18 carries with that touchdown.
“We knew all week that quarterback was a slick guy. He’s very fast, very speedy and can get to the edge. They got good players and a good line and they do things the right way,” Centerville head coach Matt Kovacevich said.
Wyatt Darnell’s 35-yard field would put Knoxville ahead 10-0 going into the half.
The Panthers would then continue the momentum at the start of the third quarter. With another fourth and short looming, Knoxville would once again not only convert but take it all the way for a touchdown. This time it was running back Carter Bailey going 56 yards up the middle, giving Knoxville a comfortable 17-0 lead.
Bailey was a problem for Centerville all night whether it was inside or outside. He would end the night with 145 yards rushing on 18 carries with a pair of touchdowns.
“We definitely weren’t ready for the physicality,” Kovacevich said. “We were not prepared for their run game. We just didn’t play well. We made a few adjustments defensively and slowed them down but we still gave up a fourth and one 40-yarder and you just can’t do that.”
Trent McCann’s 27-yard field goal late in the third quarter made it a two-score game with Knoxville leading 17-3 entering the fourth quarter.
Once again Knoxville would open the quarter with a momentum shifter. Bailey grabbed his second touchdown of the night slithering through the Big Red defense for a 5-yard touchdown to put the Panthers back in front by three scores.
Centerville had a chance to make cut the deficit to 14 again but Quinton Koestner would fumble the ball out of the end zone trying to stretch for the touchdown, resulting in a touchback while giving the ball back to Knoxville with nine minutes left.
“Those two fourth down conversions that they got were back breakers and then obviously us not being able to pick up those first downs were critical back breakers,” Kovacevich said. “You get it inside the five and have an unfortunate turnover when a kid is trying to make a play. We definitely left some yards, plays and points out there. In a close game like that, you just can’t do that.”
McCain Oden added a 21-yard rushing touchdown late in the fourth but it was all but over by then as Knoxville would hand Centerville their first loss of the season for a second consecutive year.
Although there were still things Kovacevich liked about the Big Reds play, one thing he didn’t like was how they had a lot of frustration penalties and even a couple of personal fouls. Kovacevich said things like they may force him to make some changes into next week.
“I’m happy with the effort, we battled against a really good football team, but I’m completely embarrassed the way we acted on the football field tonight. That’s not the way I want this program to be ran and it’s not going to be ran that way,” Kovacevich said.
Despite the loss, it’s still only one loss and a non-district loss at that. Oden ended the night with 82 yards on 14 attempts with a touchdown while also leading the team with nine tackles. Although the passing game missed out on a couple big opportunities, McCann caught seven passes for 112 yards.
“There’s a lot of season to go. The games aren’t going to get any easier obviously but it’s nothing to hang your head on, you got beat by probably a better team tonight but you still put forth effort and played hard,” Kovacevich said.
Centerville (2-1) will look to bounce back next week when they make the long trip to Keokuk (3-0) on Friday at 7 p.m.
Knoxville 24, Centerville 10
KNO 7 3 7 7
CEN 0 0 3 7
KNO — Nichols runs for 19-yard TD. PAT is good (7-0, 3:33)
KNO — Darnell 35-yard FG is good (10-0, 0:26)
KNO — Bailey runs for 54-yard TD. PAT is good (17-0, 9:34)
CEN — McCann 27-yard FG is good (17-3, 2:17)
KNO — Bailey runs for 5-yard TD. PAT is good (24-3, 11:55)
CEN — Oden runs for 21-yard TD. PAT is good (24-10, 1:28)
Centerville Individual Stats
Passing — Koestner 11/26 130 yards 1 INT, Mathews 1/1 26 yards
Rushing — Oden 14-82 1 TD, Koestner 12-36
Receiving — McCann 7-112, Koestner 1-26, Oden 3-13, Mathews 1-5
Top-three tackles — Oden 9, Kroeger 8.5, Clark 8
Sacks — Moore 1.5, Moorman 1, Sedgwick 0.5
Field Goals — McCann 1/1 (27)