CHARLOTTESVILLE —Third-ranked Centreville got off to an ideal start in the Virginia AAA Division 6 championship on Saturday.
Oscar Smith’s first snap of the game went through the back of the end zone, and the Wildcats led by two before they even had a chance to tackle someone.
Their good fortune would evaporate quickly after that.
Centreville senior All-Met defensive lineman Ken Ekanem left six minutes into the game with a knee injury and never returned. Two plays after his exit, the Tigers took the lead and never surrendered it as they cruised to a 47-21 win at Scott Stadium.
The loss ended Centreville’s bid for its first state title since 2000, but after the game, players reflected on a season that cemented the resurgence of a program that won four total games in 2008 and 2009.
“My freshman and sophomore year we struggled and didn’t really make the playoffs,” Wildcats quarterback Mitch Ferrick said.
“Our senior class has always thought that our senior year we had a special thing, and our senior year we could take them somewhere, and we believed that from the very beginning and we ended up there today. We didn’t get the outcome we wanted.”
The Wildcats’ chances took a hit when Ekanem headed to the sideline after injuring his knee while pulling down Tigers quarterback J.J. Williamson for a loss. Ekanem watched the remainder of the game from the sideline, emerging in the second half with a large brace on his right leg. Ekanem said the injury was believed to be a torn meniscus, but he will be further evaluated next week.
With its best pass rusher on the sideline, Centreville (13-2) struggled to slow Oscar Smith’s passing game.
On the first play after Ekanem was hurt, the Tigers (14-1) converted a third and 21 with a 26-yard pass. Virginia Tech-bound running back J.C. Coleman scored from four yards out on the following snap. The next two drives, Williamson was 5 for 5 for 128 yards and two touchdowns to open up a 21-2 lead.
“There certainly was an emotional side of it but also we had to get some personnel taken care of,” Centreville Coach Chris Haddock said of losing Ekanem. “And I think we did do that. It took us a few series to get that adjusted, but when you lose the best football player in the state of Virginia it certainly takes its toll.”
Centreville scored on a one-yard touchdown pass to Chase Walter to make it 21-9 at the half. But Oscar Smith safety Josh Townsend returned an interception 43 yards for a touchdown on the second play after halftime, one of five Centreville turnovers, and the Chesapeake school pulled away to capture its second title since 2008.