AJ Turner took his helmet off shortly after Centreville’s game with No. 7 Lake Braddock ended on Friday night and several small children started to chase him around the infield. The sophomore running back instinctively started to run away from them, juking side to side to avoid the tiny tacklers.

But suddenly he stopped moving and let them grab hold. Turner’s go-ahead touchdown reception with 42 seconds to play had sparked Centreville to a 28-27 victory in Clifton, so he figured he deserved to soak in the hero’s greeting, not run from it. After playing sparingly last year behind a group of all-state and all-region performers, Turner realized it was his time to accept the accolades and praise.

“I feel like this is amazing,” said Turner, who also rushed for 49 yards and had a key late-game interception that set up a score. “We had some really big shoes to fill and I think we did that tonight.”

The Wildcats (1-0) had a stable of runners rack up yards in the first half of a battle between the two teams that won the last three Virginia AAA Northern Region titles. Junior Christian Martey had 45 yards on seven carries while senior Marcel Smith had 45 yards on three. Centreville amassed 148 first-half rushing yards in its first game played on its two-toned, synthetic turf field.

Lake Braddock fell behind 14-0 early, but seemed to bottle up Centreville’s option running attack by the midway point of the second quarter. Plus it found some offense of its own. Behind two touchdown passes by strong-armed junior quarterback Caleb Henderson, a transfer from West Potomac, the Bruins (0-1) reeled off the next three scores and looked like they had stolen away all of the momentum.

Henderson finished 16 of 27 for 218 yards and two touchdowns.

But Henderson also threw a costly interception at Centreville’s 8-yard line with just under four minutes to play that Turner returned to the Wildcats’ 44. A mistake on an attempted punt on Lake Braddock’s previous possession — the punter fielded a bad snap that made him drop to one knee at his own 31-yard line and turn the ball over to Centreville at that spot on downs — also proved costly and gave the Wildcats great field position.

They capitalized. Sophomore Taylor Boose, who was the unquestioned workman for Centreville in the second half, capped a four-play drive with a six-yard run up the middle of the defense that pulled Centreville to within 27-21 with about six minutes remaining.

Boose finished with 15 carries for 67 yards.

“This is my first year as a varsity player. I never had a feeling like this in my life,” Boose said. “There’s no stopping us.”