Jake Behne gets it. When he and his teammates on top-ranked Centreville take the field Friday against No. 2 Gonzaga under the scope of ESPNU cameras and for a contest featuring 10 Division I commits, he knows it’s only natural for the community to be abuzz.
But after enduring Centreville’s 15-game, undefeated run to the Virginia 6A state championship, the Wildcats senior linebacker hopes the adrenaline from Friday’s season opener will spark rather than stymie their repeat title aspirations.
“With ESPN coming, I think it’s a little over built-up because we’ve still got to play 14 more games, hopefully, going in to do what we want to do,” Behne said. “No one wants to lose this game and we’re still going to play our hearts out, but losing this game would not kill our season. Though in a lot of people’s minds, it would be underachieving if we lost this game and went 14-1.”
For Centreville, a victory would not only establish its readiness to defend its title, but it could also boost the confidence of a deep team boasting 15 returning starters. All-Met running back/defensive back and South Carolina commit A.J. Turner is not expected to play after having surgery last month to repair a right wrist fracture. Without his big-play ability in the Wildcats’ Wing-T offense, Cincinnati commit Taylor Boose (1,162 yards) will shoulder the rushing load, along with versatile athletes Charles Tutt and Xavier Nickens-Yzer. Their ability to produce will go a long way in helping new starting quarterback Joe Ferrick quickly adjust for his first game under center.
Gonzaga is also led by a new face in Coach Randy Trivers, who pushed Northwest to a Maryland 3A state title in 2004. The Eagles had their way in last week’s opener, routing Neshaminy (Pa.), 42-3, behind Reggie Corbin’s 192 rushing yards and three total touchdowns from quarterback Nick Johns. Gonzaga will look to control the tempo with a balance of run and pass to keep Centreville’s defense guessing after the Wildcats allowed just 11.3 points per game last season.
“My dad always says, ‘clear the mechanism,’ meaning focus on what’s important and block out everything else,” Gonzaga offensive lineman and Alabama commit Richie Petitbon said. “We know it’s magnified because of ESPN, and it’s one versus two, but we’ve got to approach it like any other game and get down to business.”