They say football is a game of leverage.
It took three-and-half quarters but the Centennial Coyotes eventually won the arm-wrestling match dispatching top-seeded Liberty 26-14 to claim the Division II State Championship Saturday at Sun Devil Stadium. It was the fourth state title for long-time head coach Richard Taylor who beat the Peoria neighbor Lions for the second time this season.
Centennial (12-2) raced out to a 20-0 lead playing keep away from quarterback Tyler Wyatt and Liberty’s high-octane offense. relying mostly on the legs of senior running back Dedrick Young and junior duel threat quarterback Isaac Steele. When the Lions did have the ball the Coyotes’ sound defense was up to the challenge not allowing big plays and forcing Liberty to prove they could sustain long drives which, for the most part, they couldn’t.
The strategy played out perfectly until the fourth quarter when junior wide receiver Alex Jackson reeled in a scoring toss from Wyatt, then returned a punt 50 yards for a touchdown which revitalized not only his teammates, but the Liberty fans who didn’t have much to cheer about up to that point.
Then Taylor and the Coyotes’ offensive coaching staff wisely decided to dance with who got them there.
Young took a pitch and broke through the line for a 75-yard touchdown run which essentially sealed Taylor’s fourth title at Centennial.
“The line blocked great and opened it up,” Young said after the game about his last touchdown amidst the on-field celebration. “My wide receivers helped and I just shot through the hole.”
The run certainly shot the confidence of Liberty who was looking to atone for a 17-14 loss to the Coyotes earlier this season. The Lions (12-2) valiant comeback didn’t catch Taylor by surprise.
“You know these types of games, you’re always going to have that,” Taylor explained. “When they came back it was real important our kids just kept their composure which they did. Then Dedrick [took over].”
The senior star rushed 26 times for 180 yards and two touchdowns. He also added a touchdown reception from Steele on a well-executed screen play in front of the Liberty sidelines.