Ray Brewer and Case Keefer perform a post-mortem on Liberty’s historic region championship game win over Bishop Gorman before breaking down the remaining four teams left vying for the state championship.
Members of the Centennial High football team knew the narrative in comparing their roster to that of Desert Pines, the Bulldogs opponent in Saturday’s state semifinals. They knew which team many expected to win.
One team, after all, has a roster loaded with college recruits, including a player considered the best at his position in the nation. Centennial’s roster wasn’t as star-studded.
Yet, it was the Centennial players who appeared to be the bluechip recruits, whether it was running back Jordan Smith gaining hard yards all game in rushing for about 150 yards, the duo of quarterback Colton Tenney and Gerrick Robinson hooking up for repeated completions, or the Bulldogs stingy defense validating its great season by limiting Desert Pines to only one touchdown.
Centennial handed Desert Pines its first loss with a 20-7 defeat in the Mountain Region championship game to advance to next Saturday’s state championship against Liberty.
“Our kids played their hearts out,” Centennial coach Dustin Forshee said. “We don’t have one kid with a Division I scholarship and we just beat a team with 12 (who have) a Division I scholarship. It measures how much heart our kids have.”
Centennial will again be considered the underdog when it faces Liberty. Forshee wouldn’t have it any other way.
“Our kids love a challenge,” he said. “...It was all talk about how DP is a scoring team and how DP hasn’t been from behind all year. They take that as a challenge. It’s Davis versus Goliath. They aren’t going to back down from a fight.”
Tenney passed for three touchdowns, first to Robinson for the initial points of the game, and then to Smith in the final seconds of the first half for a 14-0 lead. The third, to a wide open Aaron Johnson in the fourth quarter, iced the victory.
The is the first time Centennial, which opened in 1999, is playing in the championship game — not bad considering the Bulldogs weren’t even the favorites to win their league at the beginning of the season. That title belonged to Arbor View.
“But we always believed in each other,” Tenney said. “We have been working hard for this.”
The defense forced three turnovers and deserves plenty of credit, especially the secondary. Nate Conger and Tyrone McCoy had interceptions, and Jordan McGilbra broke up a pair of passes in the endzone in the first half to preserve the shutout.
The pass rush was equally successful, including a crucial sack from Troy Miller to halt a second-half scoring drive and strong play on the interior from Thomas Lane.
“We weren’t going to back down against them,” McGilbra said.
In 2017, Centennial posted just one win in Forshee’s first season as coach. Last year, they were one-and-done in the playoffs. Now, they are one game away from being the last time standing.
“When you go from a 1-8 season two years ago to playing for the state championship at Sam Boyd Stadium, that’s huge,” Forshee said.