THEY MEET AGAIN - East Valley Tribune: VarsityXtra

THEY MEET AGAIN

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Posted: Thursday, November 29, 2007 2:13 pm | Updated: 5:44 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Since moving to the 5A Div-II level before the 2005 season, the Centennial Coyotes have been near perfect against their counterparts compiling a 33-1 record. A senior core, headed by quarterback Scott Burgett, running back Jeff Hughes, and wide receiver Jarrell Barbour, take the field tonight looking to lead the Coyotes to their third straight state championship game appearance. Senior linebacker/tight end Adam Shipley, another key cog during the Coyotes run, said while the numbers are impressive, he and his teammates won't be satisfied until they get two more victories. "We only set two goals at the start of the season," Shipley said. "One was to win the region and one was to win state." Standing in the way of getting that opportunity is a familiar foe. For the third consecutive season, Centennial faces the Sunnyside Blue Devils in the 5A Div-II football playoffs. Tonight's game at Glendale Community College pits the top-seeded 11-1 defending state champion Coyotes and fifth-seed Sunnyside (10-2) in a rematch of last year's title game. After blowing out the Blue Devils in the 2005 quarterfinals, Centennial led at the half 7-0 in last year's title game. In the second half, the Blue Devils witnessed the explosive nature of the Coyotes offensive attack, as three third quarter touchdowns broke things open as Centennial went on to a 34-0 win and the school's first state title. Burgett, Hughes and Barbour scored in last year's title game. They return to lead the Coyotes attack which will be countered by a Sunnyside offense with senior running back Jovan Stevenson. He has rushed for 1,075 yards and 10 touchdowns while catching 17 passes for another six touchdowns this season. "It's pretty impressive. When he lines up at wide receiver, they're not really surprising anyone that they're going to throw him the ball, but with his speed he just outruns people," Centennial coach Dick Taylor said. Shipley said he and his teammates respect Stevenson's talents. "He's fast, strong, physical, everything you're look for in a running back," Shipley said. But the Blue Devils' running back won't be facing a typical defense. Centennial rides a 10-game winning streak into tonight's game with a defense that has earned six shutouts this season and given up less than nine points per game. "Our coaches promise that we'll be prepared every week and that if we watch film and study our game plans that we'll get back to the title game," Hughes said. "So far it's worked. We have no reason not to listen. They put is position every week to be successful." Barbour, who has scored nine touchdowns offensively has also been a play maker defensively, intercepting eight passes from his cornerback spot. While Barbour and Hughes have been stalwarts in the secondary, the front seven for Centennial has been stout as well. Junior Jimmie Lewis leads the team in sacks with six from his end position. Senior defensive tackle Kendrick McBride has been a handful in the middle, recording 67 tackles. At linebacker, senior Jordan Rooks, Shipley and junior Reggie Umuolo are the team's three leading tacklers. Offensively, Centennial is putting up 41 points a game with Burgett completing 51 percent of his passes for 1,574 yards and 21 touchdowns. The Coyotes have a solid balance, with a running game paced by Hughes, who is averaging nearly 9 yards a carry, rushing for 1,088 yards and 15 touchdowns. Taylor said he'd wait until the conclusion of the season to compare this year's edition of the Coyotes to last year's team. This year's senior class, he said, has kept the team's goals in focus, a big part of the recipe for their success. "It's something special because they have a lot of talent, but they don't have much ego," the Coyotes coach said. "I don't have Scott coming up to me complaining that we don't throw the ball enough or Jeff asking why he has to share the ball-carrying duties or Jarrell telling me he needs more touches. They keep each other in check, because they're all pulling for the team's success above any personal goals." Shipley agrees. "A lot of teams win a title and then go backwards," he said. "We want people to know that it wasn't just one good group that came through last year. We want to solidify that this is a program that's going to contend for the championship every year. It's a lot of things from the coaches and the way they prepare us to the commitment in the weight room year round. Plus we come to play in the big games. We like that challenge when we're forced to play our best." If Centennial can make it three straight against Sunnyside, they will move to 34-1 against 5A Div-II opponents and more importantly they will get a shot at a second consecutive state title.

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