Simpson blanks Centreville to take MPSA Class AA title

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 14, 2004

CLINTON &045; Everyone may have had a feeling that streak of two straight shutouts was going to end.

Simpson Academy, though, really didn’t waste any time in ending Centreville’s streak of nine straight shutout quarters with a score on its first possession, and the Cougars showed everyone they may indeed be the best team in the entire MPSA with a 45-0 win over Centreville Academy for its second straight state championship.

For the Tigers, it marked the end of a solid season for 16 seniors.

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&uot;I thought we had a chance to get here,&uot; longtime Centreville head coach Bill Hurst said. &uot;They played hard. We just knew we had a lot of weaknesses, and they’re just good at where we were weak. Simpson has a fine football team. They’ve got size all over the line, and they’ve got speed.&uot;

The Cougars also have a wave of momentum that may be unmatched by any team in the MPSA in quite some time. The win finished out two seasons of dominating the AA ranks after last season’s win over Heritage in the championship game and put their win streak at 27 games heading into next season.

And with their win earlier this season over a MRA team that’s playing today for the AAA Division II state championship, it pushed the argument that the Cougars may just be the best team in the private school ranks.

&uot;We’ll never know because we’ll never play on the same field,&uot; SA head coach Billy Hankins said. &uot;I think our kids made a statement tonight. I really do. We said we didn’t want to go out and just win tonight. We wanted to go out and make a statement. We wanted to be the best team in the state tonight.&uot;

The Cougars did it with a physical ground game that put up nearly 400 yards rushing on a Centreville defense that had given up just 12 points all of its last four games.

&uot;Our seniors, we’ve been playing together pretty much the whole time for the last three years,&uot; said senior running back Dan Napier, who had 86 yards and two touchdowns. &uot;We wanted to get back here. We expect to win. We really didn’t expect to lose.&uot;

Hurst, who has six state titles in his tenure at Centreville, had to agree the Cougars are awfully good. But the veteran coach admitted there have been better ones in the past.

&uot;I had teams I’d love to have put on the field with them,&uot; Hurst said. &uot;You’ve got to be able to throw the ball. I’m not downing their football team. They’ve got a good team, but they’re not the best I’ve seen in the private school association. You put some Division I, SEC players up there, and they’ll have to throw the football.&uot;

The Cougars kept it on the ground and ran it behind a bullish line that kept Centreville’s big front line from doing any damage. The Cougars had only one punt all of the first half and one play for minus yardage before taking a14-0 lead by the end of the first quarter and 31-0 lead at halftime.

The Cougars punched it in on their fifth play from scrimmage when Dan Napier ran it in from 39 yards out with 7:17 left in the first.

&uot;They were very physical,&uot; Hurst said. &uot;Their offensive and defensive lines whipped us up front. We couldn’t do anything. We could load and load (in the box) and still couldn’t have stopped them.&uot;

The Tigers were pinned deep on their next drive and punted to give the Cougars the ball at the CA 34, and 10 plays later Napier punched it in from 2 yards out for a 14-0 lead with 39 seconds left in the first quarter.

On their first play of their next drive, Justin Duckworth broke an 80-yard run up the middle for another score for a 21-0 lead.

The Tigers had their best opportunity to score in the first half when Jennings Field hit Tal Priest for a 33-yard pass to get to the Simpson 37. Field hit Devall for a 13-yard pass to get to the Simpson 8, but two plays later a trick play went bust when Devall threw an interception in the end zone on a pass intended for Jeffrey DeLee.

&uot;This is as good a team we’ve had at Simpson,&uot; Hankins said. &uot;It’s the best team I’ve ever had. Centreville has a great team. They were 12-1 and one point away from being undefeated. They played hard to the very end. It’s a credit to Coach Hurst and his players.&uot;

The Cougars scored on their first play two drives later when Shannon Steed broke away on a sweep around the left side for a 78-yard touchdown run for a 28-0 lead with 3:45 left. Field then had a pass picked off by Steed at the CA 33, and that set up Justin Blair’s 21-yard field goal as time expired on the first half.

The Tigers put together a nice drive in the third after taking over at their own 26. Field hit fullback A.J. Dooley on a 17-yyard pass to get past midfield, and the Tigers eventually got a first down at the Simpson 18, but the drive stalled out on fourth and nine when Devall was stopped for a 1-yard gain.

Then in the fourth a 38-yard pass from Field to Tal Priest got the Tigers to the Simpson 12, but Field was sacked on third down before he nearly connected with Devall in the end zone. Devall appeared to have diving grab but lost it when he hit the ground.

&uot;They brought pressure, and our line couldn’t handle it,&uot; Hurst said. &uot;I think if we could have thrown the ball we may have gained some yards &045; not won, but we would have gained some yards.&uot;