Friday, Sept. 3, 2010 | 11:19 p.m.
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Las Vegas Sun reporters Case Keefer and Ray Brewer break down the first week of high school football games and look ahead to this Friday's gridiron action.
Centennial wide receiver Najeem Popal caught a 55-yard touchdown from Cody Clark late in the third quarter to help the Bulldogs improve to 2-0 on the season with a 19-13 road victory over Green Valley on Friday night.
“It was actually a broken up play,” said Popal of his go-ahead touchdown. “I was supposed to be running a post, but then I saw my quarterback roll out, so I switched my direction and went towards the end zone and he threw it up and just made a play.”
Coach Leon Evans’ Bulldogs squad trailed 13-7 at halftime but roared back with two touchdowns in the second half and played stout defense to pull off the comeback victory.
Centennial was led on offense by running back Taj Cole, who rushed for 191 yards on 19 carries, including a 73 yard touchdown run in the first quarter to even the score at 7.
Cole’s long touchdown run came on the first play of the Bulldogs drive after falling behind 7-0.
“I put that all on my line. The line came out strong on that one, and I felt the need to redeem that touchdown,” Cole said. “I was thinking first touch I am going six.”
Green Valley running back Aaron Love answered Cole’s long touchdown run with a 63-yard touchdown run of his own to give the Gators a 13-7 lead in an action-packed first quarter that saw 20 of the 32 points scored on the evening.
But the Gators halftime lead was short-lived. In the third quarter, Centennial drove the ball down on the opening possession and scored on a Willie White 2-yard touchdown run less than two minutes into the half.
The Bulldogs point-after attempt was blocked, which kept the scored tied at 13.
Essentially everything that could have gone wrong did go wrong in the third quarter for the Gators.
After allowing two third-quarter touchdowns that saw their 6 point halftime lead turn into a 6 point deficit, the Gators committed a crucial roughing the passer penalty on a Centennial incomplete pass on 3rd and 29 from deep in their own territory.
The penalty gave the Bulldogs an automatic first down instead of punting from their own end zone. The Gators never seemed to recover.
Following the penalty, the Bulldogs began to eat up clock behind the strong running of Cole and White. The Bulldogs picked up several key first downs in the fourth quarter to keep the chains moving and the clock running.
“The fourth quarter was about conditioning and tough-nosed football,” Evans said. “Our kids came out and they pounded the football and got the first downs when they had to.”
The Bulldogs dodged a bullet with three minutes remaining in the game when sophomore running back Coby Newton appeared to lose a fumble but was ruled down by contact.
White picked up a first down a few plays later on a 7-yard run on 3rd and 6 to ice the game for the Bulldogs.
The Bulldogs lined up in victory formation for two downs to kill the clock and hand their first-year coach his second victory of the season.