As the players and coaches met for their postgame handshake on Friday night (Sept. 27), Peoria Centennial coach Richard Taylor told his counterpart from Peoria Liberty, Dan Filleman, “I guess we have a rivalry now.’’
With Liberty moving up from Division III to Division II to join Centennial, the two teams met for the first time. If this one was any indication of what the future holds for these programs, fans will be in for a wild ride.
Centennial trailed 24-7 at halftime, came back to take a 28-24 lead, fell behind 31-28 and rallied again for a 42-31 victory in front of a full house at Liberty.
Junior running back Dedrick Young carried Centennial on his back, rushing for 301 yards and five touchdowns. His offensive line, which rapidly is becoming one of the state’s best, had a lot to do with it.
Centennial (4-1) took the second-half kickoff and went to work, rather, Young went to work.
The Coyotes drove 77 yards in nine plays to pull within 24-14, and Young accounted for all of those yards, on nine carries. His second touchdown of the night came from 4 yards out.
He later scored three more times, on runs of 6, 7, and 18 yards.
“I was proud of our offensive line and proud of Dedrick,’’ said Centennial coach Richard Taylor. “Dedrick has a huge heart.’’
Young now has 845 yards on 92 carries and 11 TDs.
“Our line played great. They were opening holes for me and I was just following them,’’ said the 6-foot-1, 200-pound Young, who also plays linebacker.
“At halftime, coach told us we needed to stop making mistakes, keep our cool. We just went out and did what we needed to do.’’
Said Taylor: “We executed better on both sides of the ball.’’
Liberty (3-3) also had its own hero.
Senior wide receiver Chad Bennett caught six passes for 198 yards and four scores.
His fourth score of the night, on a 41-yard pass from Tyler Wyatt with 6:39 left in the game, put Liberty back in front 31-28 after Centennial had taken the lead. Wyatt completed 13 of 25 passes for 258 yards, but only 5 of 12 for 74 yards in the second half.
Centennial came right back to go ahead for good, 35-31, on an 18-yard run by Young. The Coyotes went 80 yards in six plays, with Young (of course) providing the big play on a 48-yard run to the Liberty 32.
With desperation setting in, Liberty tried to go to the air again. However, a pass by Wyatt was tipped into the hands of Centennial linebacker Brett Tonz, who returned the interception 25 yards for the TD to ice the game with 3:34 left.