Centennial surprises No. 7 Liberty Eagles contain wing-T, take opener, 20-17

September 08, 1996|By Glenn P. Graham | Glenn P. Graham,SUN STAFF

Just when it looked as if the No. 7 Liberty Lions had finally gained some sort of control in yesterday afternoon's opener at Centennial, the Eagles saved their best for last.

Trailing for the first time with 7: 27 left in the fourth quarter, Centennial went 80 yards on 14 plays, with senior quarterback Ryan Gielen throwing a 26-yard touchdown pass to senior Chip Harrison to provide the 20-17 victory.

It was the Eagles who made the bigger plays yesterday and it was never more evident than in the final drive, which left only 58 seconds for the Lions to respond.

On fourth-and-four at their own 36, the Eagles moved the markers when Gielen found Jason Zolak on a hitch route for 5 yards. It was the fifth catch of the day for Zolak, who finished with 131 yards receiving and two touchdowns.

The rest of the drive consisted of running backs Scott Bross and Keith Williams pounding the ball inside until Gielen found Harrison alone in the end zone for a 26-yard scoring strike.

"Their safety was cheating over to Zolak's side so we sent [Harrison] straight down the field and there it was," said Centennial coach Ed Holshue. "We knew we could move the football. We came in here to see if we can beat a decent team."

Gielen completed nine of 16 passes for 205 yards and three touchdowns. The first touchdown went for 84 yards to Zolak, a fly pattern down the left sideline, which gave the Eagles a 7-0 lead in the second quarter.

After Liberty running back Josh Denning (62 yards, two touchdowns) scored from 10 yards out to tie the score at 7 later in the second quarter, Centennial went 80 yards in its final series of the half to take a 14-7 halftime lead.

With their wing-T offense, the Lions moved the ball fairly well throughout the game, but they weren't able to break the long run that keyed their 8-2 season in 1995 -- largely due to the effort of Bross, who stepped up from his strong safety position to fill the middle. They got a break early in the fourth quarter when a snap sailed over Centennial punter Jon Thompson's head, out of the end zone for a safety.

Trailing 14-9, the Lions took over at the Centennial 39 after the free kick and needed just six plays to get the go-ahead score, on Denning's 7-yard run. Denning added the two-point play to give the Lions the 17-14 lead.

L It left the Eagles with 7: 27, all the time they would need.

"It was a gutsy drive," said Liberty coach Ken Johnson. "They hit the plays when they needed to -- it was good high school football. The kids didn't come in overconfident, we knew Centennial was going to be a tough game."

Pub Date: 9/08/96

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