The Pueblo Chieftain
State rankings add to the luster
of tradition as Central (No.1)
and Centennial (No.2) meet
Chieftain photo by Chris McLean
Central Wildcats' Fred Trujillo will bump heads with the Bulldogs of Centennial and running back Bob Donlon (right).
If Lew Rhodes only knew what he started.
Well, Lew didn't exactly start the football rivalry between Central and Centennial high schools. That dates back to 1892. But, on Oct. 21, 1950 he did escalate it, giving the cross-town clash a focal point.
The series was knotted at 21-21-6 when Rhodes donated a bell taken off a CF&I locomotive. He had it polished and transformed into The Victory Bell, then the symbol of Steel City gridiron superiority. (Remember, South and East high schools did not open until 1959.)
Despite Central's 48-37-9 series edge, The Bell has rang Red for the past four years.
Tonight (KCSJ, 7 o'clock) at Dutch Clark Stadium, before an expected sellout of 12,700, they meet in the 95th renewal of the series.
"Central-Centennial" is usually 'nuf said" about this game, but not this season. Besides local pride there's everything at stake here but the final house payment.
Central, 6-0 in all games and 3-0 in the South-Central League, has been ranked No. 1 in the Class 4A poll for the past two weeks.
Centennial, 5-1 overall and tied with the Wildcats atop the S-CL, climbed to the No. 2 slot in the polls the same week.
All this has had a tendency to overshadow the rest of the S-CL's weekend slate. Tonight at 7 o'clock East (2-1, 5-1) is at Canon City (0-3, 2-4).
Saturday games find Pueblo County (0-3, 0-6) entertaining Harrison (3-3, 1-2) at 1 p.m. with South (1-2, 2-3) at in Colorado Springs at Harrison Memorial Stadium opposite Sierra (2-1, 2-3) at 1:30 p.m.
Centennial has turned into a remarkable example of one dimensional offensive football. The Bulldogs, with an offensive line averaging 216 pounds per man, have 1,649 yards rushing and only 42 passing.
Of late, defenses have stacked eight defenders on the scrimmage line trying to stop the I-Bone option attack before it gets started.
"I look for teams to start putting nine, maybe 10 up there on the line against us," quipped Centennial skipper Tom Brockman. "The way we throw we may see an 11-man (defensive) front against us one of these days.
"The trouble with (the scheme) that (sends) that many (defenders) up there, if they make a mistake we're gone for a touchdown," he added. "Our tailbacks, (Bob) Donlon and (Joey) Rael (both track sprinters) can run with anyone."
The one they have to match, in particular, is Central's explosive tailback Marvin Brown. A game breaker in his own right with 805 yards rushing and 12 touchdowns, Brown has the benefit of being just one weapon in the Wildcat arsenal.
Coach Dave Craddock can call on 206-pound fullback Rodney Ramos for tough yards inside, and Ramos has averaged 6.5 yards per tote.
Quarterback Matt Herrera has 39 pass completions for 584 yards and five touchdowns. Wide receiver Casey Cortese has three of those TD grabs. Two weeks ago, Brown added an exclamation point to all scouting reports when he sneaked behind the Sierra secondary for a 48-yard TD catch that proved to be the winning score.
As much as can be said about the offensive firepower of both can be said of the defenses.
Centennial, led by 289-pound tackle Chris Fasano, held then No. 2 East to seven points as well as Grand Junction and Pueblo County to one-touchdown outputs.
Central, led by linebackers Ramos and Jack Cline, totally throttled Sierra, holding it scoreless from scrimmage and last week allowed South seven points.
"In big games like this, defense usually rules," claims Craddock. "Our defense has to come up big in this one. We cannot let Centennial control the clock."
Bulldog QB Kevin Cadena is a master of that, using the option to keep those eight- and nine-man defensive lines off balance.
"There aren't any secrets in this game," says Brockman. "Central can make it wide open and we run the option. We have confidence in that."
East can tell you about confidence. The Eagles gave themselves a huge boost of "Vitamin C" with a physical 34-12 win at Harrison last week. East had its dobber down after a 28-point Centennial fourth quarter knocked it from an unbeaten perch.
East will be at a size disadvantage vs. Canon City, but this team has been in the making for three years and everybody is on the same page. For example, East leads the league in total offense with 349.8 yards per game.
Canon City's defensive problems stem from East's versatility. Quarterback Jon Reardon has run for 467 yards and passed for another 804 and 10 touchdowns. Mike Atencio, James Chacon and Beto Archuleta run hard and smart inside or outside.
The passing corps is six deep with John Haynes, D.J. Latino, George Carroll, Amadeo Lefebre, Matt Shumaker and Robin Smith, not to mention that all running backs are included in the passing game sooner or later.
Canon City deserves respect despite its 0-3 S-CL record. One loss was 28-27 to Central, another 27-26 at Harrison. The Tigers play a smashmouth brand of ball running 5-foot-6, 167-pound tailback Derrick Corbin 190 times in six games.
Pueblo County is back to a more traditional offensive style these days. Wes Faris remains at quarterback, but Rick Ware has been switched from tailback to fullback, Jonathan Lewis stays at slotback, with Jason Marquez and Anthony Montoya splitting time at tailback.
South has tailback problems as regular starter Tim Sanford nurses a tender shoulder from a hit incurred in the first quarter of last week's game. Despite Sanford's absence, QB Ryan Lown, with running backs Nate Sanchez and Nick Garcia, along with receivers Greg Goddard, Casey Frazier, Toby Lockett, David Gonzales and Grant Huett, moved the football.
"Sierra poses a lot of problems (defensively) with all that speed," says coach Tim Graham.