Center keeps O'Hara in a funk
By Brian Spano PrepsKC Senior Writer
Center entered Friday night’s game at O’Hara on a two-game losing streak with three district playoffs staring them in the face. There was no way head coach Bryan DeLong was going to allow his team to make it three in a row and not try to muster some kind of momentum heading into that final stretch.
So, the Yellowjackets, 4-3 and 2-3 in the West Central Conference, took it upon themselves to go out and beat the O’Hara Celtics on their home field 24-6 with a solid running game and bend-but-don’t-break defense.
“This was so vital,” DeLong said of getting this victory. “Our practice this week really was upbeat. We’re young, and have energetic kids. We have energetic coaches, and we try to have fun at practice. They’ve been working hard. As a team, everyone got better. We call plays and look smart when you know your players get better and play hard.”
It took a quarter-and-a-half before either team crossed the goal line, but it wasn’t for lack of moving the ball. Both teams were able to move the ball, but drives stalled deep in the other team’s territory.
Center scored midway through the first quarter on an Anthony Eskridge one-yard plunge. It was set up by a 57-yard pass to Ronnie Hill from Jaante Perkins. It took four plays to get in, but the Yellowjackets weren’t to be denied.
Less than three minutes later, Gage King bolted 26 yards for another score to put Center up 14-0 at the break.
Before halftime, the Celtics, 5-2 and 4-1 in the conference, lost a key piece of their offense. Quarterback Jake Fortin went down after a keeper play near the O’Hara sideline. He suffered a concussion and did not play the remainder of the game. His status for next week’s game in unknown. Cardell Miller and Michael Briggs shared the signal calling duties.
“It changed their passing game,” DeLong said of the loss of Fortin. “When (Briggs) came in, it was pretty obvious what they were going to do. Fortin’s a good kid, probably an all-league type quarterback.”
Briggs did hit Brandon Dennis for an 18-yard touchdown in the third quarter, but it was all O’Hara could do.
From that point on, Center served up a steady diet of Eskridge and King.
“We knew we had to hold on to the ball, make sure we didn’t turn it over and just run hard. That’s what our coach told us,” Eskridge said. “We just wanted to keep running and keep moving forward.”
Eskridge finished the night with 93 yards and two scores, and Gage had 86 yards and a touchdown. Perkins was six of 11 passing for 116 yards. The Yellowjackets finished with 332 total yards of offense while giving up just 244, 102 on the ground and 142 through the air.
This loss for O’Hara gives them a two-game losing streak after getting pummeled by University Academy 61-33 last week. The Celtics will take on Pembroke Hill in the first game of their Class 3 district playoff, while Center travels to Grain Valley.
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