Casteel football looked all but equal to back-to-back state champion Centennial Friday, but came up just short, losing 34-27 on the road in the 2019 season opener.
Centennial looked unstoppable to start, easily driving down the field on its first two offensive possessions for touchdowns. A rout appeared to be coming. Centennial quarterback Jonathan Morris said he felt the team start to lose focus.
“I just think we got a little too confident, took our foot off the gas pedal a little bit,” Morris said.
Penalties from Centennial derailed several early chances to stop Casteel scoring drives short, and the Colts took advantage.
In the red zone, the Coyotes had no answers for Casteel’s wildcat formation. Senior Benjamin Blancas, the team’s primary rusher in this game, would draw defenders in and threw a pair of touchdowns on trick plays to go with his rushing score in the first quarter.
“They must have practiced that (the wildcat) a lot, because they executed it really well,” Centennial senior Jaydin Young said.
Even so, the Coyotes kept pounding the ball on the ground, and a fourth-quarter touchdown – the team’s fifth rushing score – increased Centennial’s lead to 34-20, putting the game nearly out of reach.
But Casteel marched down the field late in the fourth quarter, scored on a 14-yard pass, and made a timely defensive stop to get the ball back with two minutes to play.
The Colts kept fighting through tough spots on the final drive, including gaining a first-down on a double-pass – yet-another trick play – from Christensen to Blancas to Gapen for 23 yards. But, on fourth down and 21 yards to go with under a minute left a few plays later, a Christensen pass was thrown just behind Blancas, who readjusted but could not hold onto the ball.
Centennial knelt out the clock to finish with the victory.
“If I made that catch, I feel like we had the momentum going that we would have been able to pull it out,” Blancas said. “So it’s just tough to go out in this game like that.”
A year ago, the Colts played their first 5A game against these same Coyotes, losing 42-19. A close loss with blown chances to win will sting for the Casteel players in the coming days, but coach Bobby Newcombe said a closer game against the defending 5A champions is still something to be proud of.
“To come within seven points of this team, that’s much better that we were a year ago,” he told his team after the game.
Blancas added that an early-season loss, while humbling, is a learning experience for the Colts.
Their ultimate goal is to reach the open-division playoffs, and the lessons and pain taken from this game, he said, will motivate Centennial the rest of the season.
“I just don’t want to feel like this again,” Blancas said. “So now it’s over, and we have to do what we can to come out on top the rest of the season.”
The Colts (0-1) will host Apollo on August 30. Centennial (1-0) hosts Mater Dei (CA) on September 6.
Casteel 27, Centennial 34
Casteel 7 6 7 7 - 27
Centennial 13 7 7 7 – 34
CENT – Linholm 15 run (Rodriguez kick), 10:05
CENT – Young 11 run (kick failed), 7:13
CAST – Blancas 28 run (Murphy kick), 2:26
CENT – Young 14 run (Rodriguez kick), 1:59
CAST – Newcombe 8 pass from Blancas (Murphy kick), 0:05
CENT – Scott 67 run (Rodriguez kick), 7:06
CAST – Burns 8 pass from Blancas (Murphy kick), 3:06
CENT – Young 11 run (Rodriguez kick), 7:37
CAST – Burns 14 pass from Christensen (Murphy kick), 3:20
Casteel – Blancos 16-87, Knutsen 3-5, Christensen 8-0. Centennial – Scott 5-92, Young 9-86, Linholm 7-64, Morris 3-17, Jacob 3-2.
Casteel – Christensen 16-25-156-0, Blancas 5-7-58-0. Centennial – Morris 10-17-81-0.
Casteel – Burns 9-71, Gapen 4-53, Digian 2-48, Blancas 4-27, Newcombe 2-15. Centennial – Haney 2-38, Dimbiti – 3-22, Miller 3-19, Jodarski 1-4, Adams 1- -2.
First downs 16 13
Rush-yards 27-92 24-261
Comp-att-int 21-32-0 10-17-0
Pass yards 214 81
Total yards 306 342
Fumbles/lost 1/1 1/0
Penalties-yards 10-61 13-106