Centennial maintained its win streak with a 28-21 win at Mount Hebron this weekend, but not without a fair amount of drama. There’s always tension when the Ellicott City opponents meet, and this year, the rivalry boiled over into the end zone with a first quarter scuffle that resulted in the suspensions of two players and one coach from each team.
“It’s a big rivalry and it was probably just tempers,” Centennial Coach Todd Kriner said.
The Eagles (3-0) had already allowed 14 points in the first quarter of Mount Hebron’s homecoming game on two touchdowns from Vikings running back Zach Nicholas and then had to deal with the loss of two starters.
“It’s a lot of adversity,” Kriner said. “You game plan for a lot of things, but you don’t game plan for losing players and a coach.”
Centennial played from behind for most of the game against Mount Hebron (0-3), but regained control behind the speed of running back Walter Fletcher. The senior rushed for four touchdowns, including the game-tying run — a 75-yard kickoff return — with 11 minutes to go.
A crucial seven-minute possession in the fourth quarter led to another scoring run from Fletcher — this one from 12 yards out — in the last two minutes of the game. He finished the game with 30 carries for 174 yards.
“We made some adjustments and cleaned up some mistakes, and we were able to stay with our game plan,” Kriner said.
The last time Centennial started 2-0 was in 1980, and they’ve already outdone Kriner’s first two seasons with the team (1-9 in 2011 and 3-7 in 2012). The power comes from a strong group of seniors, many of who joined varsity in Kriner’s first year.
No one is quite sure the last time the Leonardtown football team was 3-0 in the 35 years since the school opened. Nobody can even remember the team being 2-0, said first-year Coach James Klenk, and it’s likely that this is the first season the Raiders finished Week 3 of SMAC football undefeated.
Leonardtown came from behind in the third quarter to edge out a narrow 17-13 win at Thomas Stone (2-1) Friday. A chaotic fourth included a called back touchdown for the Raiders and five turnovers between the two teams.
Klenk is in his first year at the helm of the Raiders after seven years as an assistant with the program. The improvement this year is not because of any change in coaching style, he said, but due to the maturation of a talented senior class.
“This is a very special group of kids,” Klenk said. “I take a lot of input from the kids, they’re the one executing. We’re all putting the time into it, but they’re putting in the sacrifice on the field. When there are opportunities to collaborate on strategies or plays, we ask them what they like. They’ve got such a good football I.Q.”
The 21 seniors on the Leonardtown roster witnessed two back-to-back 2-8 seasons and many were on varsity for 2012’s 5-5 showing.
“We don’t look into the past,” senior quarterback Zach Sparshott said. “Our coaches call it ‘Old Leonardtown.’ That was back how things were when our team wouldn’t get along and there would be a whole bunch of mental errors. This is the strongest I’ve seen any team I’ve been on.”
Sparshott is one of 15 senior starters — including standout senior kicker Doug Baumann, who was six for seven on field goal attempts in the first two games. He put the Raiders ahead at the end of the first with a field goal from less than one minute before halftime.
“I tell him he’s not a kicker, he’s a weapon in terms of flipping the field and his touchback ability,” Klenk said. “He allows me to make easy decisions on field goals.”