With his bleached blond hair, Centreville running back Xavier Nickens-Yzer is hard to miss on the Wildcats’ sideline. But entering Friday’s Virginia AAA Northern Region Division 6 first-round game against West Potomac, the sophomore knew he was far from the primary backfield focus.
Nickens-Yzer needed only six touches to rush for 120 yards and a touchdown and returned a kickoff 99 yards for another score to lead Centreville to a 28-11 win against the Wolverines. The Wildcats (8-3) will host Oakton next Friday in the semifinals.
“I know most guys key in on A.J. and I moreso do the blocking and run the opposite way when he has the ball,” Nickens-Yzer said. “But tonight, I just listened to my coaches, followed my blocking and it made for a special night.”
After taking a 7-0 lead early in the second quarter on a David Liddle 15-yard touchdown catch, the Wildcats threatened again just before halftime. Following a West Potomac (6-5) penalty, Nickens-Yzer burst through the line for a 60-yard run that set up Turner’s five yard touchdown run to put Centreville up 14-0.
At the start of the second half, the ball again came Nickens-Yzer’s way, this time on a long kickoff that pushed him just inside Centreville’s goal line. But he never hesitated, cutting once before accelerating 99 yards upfield for another Wildcat touchdown.
“That kickoff return was pretty spectacular and helped swing the momentum in our favor,” Wildcats Coach Chris Haddock said. “Xavier’s really been coming along all year and oftentimes in practice, he’s the guy who runs our plays the best, so you could see tonight that he made the most of the opportunities he had.”
After West Potomac got on the board with a 39-yard field goal by Chris Blewitt, Nickens-Yzer made sure the Wildcats maintained their momentum, rumbling 57 yards on Centreville’s next offensive possession for his second touchdown on the night.
Returning from a leg injury that sidelined the previous game-and-a-half, Pierson-El tried to produce a similar output for the Wolverines, only to find most holes plugged up along the line by Centreville’s stout defense. The junior still finished with 121 yards and a late touchdown, but could not replicate the 239 yards he racked up in West Potomac’s 27-20 win against Centreville earlier this season.