Centreville advances to MAIS 4A playoff semi-finals

Published 12:24 pm Tuesday, November 7, 2023

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RAYMOND — It took to the very end of the fourth quarter for Centreville Academy to emerge victorious last Friday night as the No. 5 seed Tigers defeated the No. 4 seed Central Hinds Academy Cougars 44-43 in the quarterfinals of the MAIS Class 4A State Playoffs.

Centreville trailed Central Hinds 43-36 and had the ball at the Cougars’ 7-yard line with just one second left. That’s when sophomore quarterback Parker Nettles connected with sophomore wide receiver John Austin Sterling for the touchdown that made it a 43-42.

With time expired, Tigers head coach Bill Hurst decided to roll the dice and go for two and the win. And Nettles delivered again as he ran in for the two-point conversion to give them the dramatic win to keep their state championship hopes alive.

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“It was exciting. We had two different times we were down 14 points. The kids never quit. They never gave up,” Centreville assistant coach Brian Stutzman said in a phone interview last Sunday morning. “We got two onside kicks throughout the game.”

At one point in the third quarter, Centreville trailed Central Hinds (6-5) 20-7 before scoring two touchdowns to take a 21-20 lead. The Tigers were then down two touchdowns in the fourth quarter before rallying for the win.

As for whose idea it was to go for two and the win, Stutzman said, “We had done decided that if we score, we would go for two. It was getting late. We were on the road. We had momentum on our side. Ultimately, it’s on coach Hurst. He was the one who made the decision.”

Stutzman added that Nettles did an outstanding job running the offense on the road in a hostile environment.

“He showed a lot of poise. He never quit. We made mistakes. He showed a lot of heart. It was a great effort by everyone,” Stutzman said.

Stutzman noted that despite its 6-4 regular-season record, the Cougars earned their No. 4 seed because of their strength of schedule, including some MAIS Class 6A teams as well as District 2-4A rival and No. 1 seed Tri-County Academy.

Centreville Academy also got the monkey off its back because Central Hinds Academy had defeated the Tigers the previous two years, Stutzman said.

“They were a good team. We knew going up there it was going to be a tough challenge. But we pulled it out at the end. We never quit,” Stutzman said.

Next for the Tigers (10-2) is a trip to Flora to take on No. 1 seed Tri-County Academy in the Class 4A semifinals this Friday with kickoff at 7 p.m.

“It’s going to be a big challenge. They’ve been strong the last couple of years. They’ve got a good tradition,” Stutzman said. “They got beat in the state championship team last year by Greenville St. Joe. It’s going to be a tough task.”

In order for the Tigers to pull off the upset, Stutzman said the offense has to protect the ball and not have any turnovers while defensively, they’ve got to tackle. 

“We’ve got to tackle better (than we did last Friday night). We’ve got to tackle and play fundamental football,” Stutzman said.

Offensively, Tri-County Academy runs a lot of power sets and they run some spread. Stutzman added that the Rebels have a big quarterback who will be hard for the Tigers’ defense to handle.

“He’s about 6-3. He may be 6-4. He’s a substantial kid. He’s a tall kid. Runs hard. He can throw the ball and he can run the ball,” Stutzman said. “Defensively, they run a 4-front. Depends on what we run offensively, they could run a 4-4 or maybe a 4-2.”

Actually, their quarterback is junior Bryce Warriner, who stands 6-2 and weighs close to 210 pounds. If he gets loose, he could be tough for the Tigers’ defense to bring down.

As for what the Tigers’ main emphasis will be in practice this week to get ready for Tri-County Academy, Stutzman said, “We’ll continue to do the same. Fundamentals. Tackling. Blocking. It all comes down to that. We’ve got to do a better job of tackling. We’ve got to do a better job of blocking. That’s what we’ll be working on this week.”