CHARLOTTESVILLE — Not too long after Centreville stamped its ticket to Saturday’s Virginia 6A state championship, the Wildcats began to hear whispers of what they couldn’t do.
Running the ball against an Oscar Smith defensive line led by Gatorade national player of the year Andrew Brown was too tall of a task. Finishing undefeated was impossible. And beating the same Oscar Smith team that had hammered them just two years ago in the state title game? No way.
All week, the Wildcats sifted through those doubts — along with a snowstorm that shifted their normal week of practice to an indoor facility — and churned them into motivation, resulting in a dominant 35-6 victory at the University of Virginia’s Scott Stadium. The championship marked Centreville’s second state titleand capped a season that produced a school-record 15 wins.
The second-ranked Wildcats (15-0) set the tone early, steadily moving downfield behind their wing-T offense before A.J Turner burst for a 52-yard touchdown on the opening drive. Oscar Smith (14-1) appeared to be building its own offensive rhythm in response until Xavier Nickens-Yzer picked off a pass and ran 65 yards to put Centreville up 14-0 just five minutes into the game.
Centreville’s defense protected the lead with consistent pressure on Tigers freshman quarterback Shon Mitchell. Along with forcing four turnovers, the Wildcats held the Tigers to just 88 yards on offense.
“We thought if we get to the quarterback early, we could rattle him up and that could be key to winning the game,” said Wildcats All-Met linebacker Chad Wiggins, who finished with a sack and a forced fumble. “We knew all week we needed to study hard and read every play, and it’s all about preparation.”
Centreville’s offense looked just as prepared as it ran for 327 yards against a Tigers defense that had allowed just 68 points all season entering Saturday’s game.
“At first I was kind of nervous because their defensive line is really good,” said Turner, who finished with 182 rushing yards and two touchdowns. “But once I scored the first time, I realized they’re not unstoppable and we’re definitely capable of doing more.”
The cold rain pouring down for most of the second half resulted in seven total fumbles, three of which bobbled from the hands of Centreville and opened opportunities for an Oscar Smith rally.
But after forcing two late turnovers, Centreville found itself basking in the downpour, culminating with a Gatorade bath for Wildcats Coach Chris Haddock in celebration of his first state title as a head coach.
“We really felt like we had a special opportunity this year,” Haddock said. “This is the best group I’ve been around . . . and now we’ve got the best football team in the state.”