By James Gavato
For the third year in a row, the Centennial Bulldogs beat the Central Wildcats in the first South-Central League Bell Game since 2011.
The Bulldogs beat the Wildcats 24-12. The Wildcats began the scoring with 9:16 left in the second quarter with a drive that began on their own 1-yard line and featured four third-down conversions on their way to the end zone.
Marcus Duran scored the touchdown with a 4-yard run, but Nico Martin fumbled the ball on the two-point conversion.
Trailing 6-0, the Bulldogs answered on their next possession, with junior quarterback Devin Blue running it in from a yard out with 5:16 left. Dylan Vigil converted the two-point conversion for Centennial.
The half ended with the Bulldogs leading 8-6 and Centennial picked up right where they left off in the third quarter. They faced a fourth-and-4, and Blue threw a 28-yard strike to Nic Montoya with 5:17 remaining. Buddie Niccoli ran in to complete the two-point conversion.
In the fourth quarter, the Bulldogs increased their lead to 24-6 when Brandon Roberts ran in from three yards out and scored the two-point conversion with 5:47 left in the game. Roberts also had an interception right before the end of the first half.
With 2:17 remaining in the rivalry, Central responded as Duran scored his second rushing touchdown with a 3-yard burst, but again, Martin failed to convert the two-point conversion.
Trailing 24-12, Central then recovered an onside kick at the Centennial 45-yard line. On second-and-10, sophomore quarterback Ryley Roth had his pass intercepted by KeShaun Telley, ending the game, and ultimately leading to Centennial keeping the bell.
“My mentality for myself and for the whole team was to leave no doubt, we felt fired up as ever knowing we were picked as the underdog going into this game. We’re a well-rounded team that can put solid drives together,” said Nick Ponce, a senior tackle for Centennial.
“There’s nothing else I could’ve asked for in a final Bell Game. Besides the win, we played together as a team,” Ponce said.
The Bulldogs improved to 4-4 on the season (1-2 SCL), while the Wildcats dropped to 4-4 (0-3 SCL).
Central squares off against the East Eagles, the No. 6 team in the state on Thursday at 7 p.m. at Dutch Clark Stadium, while Centennial battles the South Colts on Friday at 7 p.m, at Dutch Clark Stadium.