Slattery's interception allowed the Tigers to hold on for a 31-28 victory in the Class 4 district opener for both teams.
POPLAR BLUFF, Mo. -- Blake Slattery intercepted a pass at his own 20-yard line to help Central hold back Poplar Bluff 31-28 in the Class 4 District 1 opener Friday night.
Andy Billmeyer's 31-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter turned out to be the difference.
The Tigers (2-6, 1-1 SEMO) nearly blew a 21-point first-quarter lead when Poplar Bluff (1-7, 0-2) returned a punt to the Central 27-yard line with 1 minute, 44 seconds to play.
But Asa Wyatt's first pass was tipped by a receiver and fell into the hands of Slattery.
"Got a break. We needed breaks," Central coach Lawrence Brookins said. "We hadn't had many this year."
Hykeem Hammonds had 273 all-purpose yards, including a 95-yard touchdown on the opening kickoff, and 120 yards on 32 carries for the Tigers (2-6).
Central scored on its first two drives of the game and led 21-0 before the Mules moved the chains for the first time.
Hammonds finished an eight-play, 69-yard drive with a 1-yard run while Slattery capped a six-play, 36-yard drive with a 2-yard run.
Poplar Bluff trailed 21-7 at halftime when they scored with 11:52 to play in the half on Allan Spencer's 4-yard run.
The Mules were held to 27 yards rushing while Wyatt threw for 300 yards on 10-of-25 passing.
"Tonight we did a little bit better job with [tackling]," Brookins said. "It still wasn't perfect, but it was much, much improved."
On the Mules first play of the second half, Wyatt hit Nick Stith down the right sideline for an 86-yard touchdown pass to pull the Mules within 21-14.
The Tigers answered with a 58-yard kickoff return by Hammonds that set up an eight-play, 34-yard scoring drive. Slattery's 1-yard run made it 28-14, and after Billmeyer's field goal with 10:10 to play in the fourth quarter, Central led by 17.
A fake punt on fourth-and-2 at the Poplar Bluff 38 kept the Tigers' drive alive and set up what turned out to be the game winner.
The Mules rallied with an 74-yard scoring drive and a 62-yard touchdown pass caught by Stith after it was tipped by a Central defender with 3:56 to play.
The Tigers were forced to punt four plays later but Slattery's interception sealed the win.
Scott Dunaway also picked off two passes for Central while Darris Gerlach and Clayton Hill each had a sack.
Slattery completed 6-of-8 passes for 67 yards and Central had 256 yards of total offense to Poplar Bluff's 327.
CENTRAL 31, POPLAR BLUFF 28
CC -- Hammonds 95 kickoff return (Billmeyer kick), 11:48.
CC -- Hammonds 1 run (Billmeyer kick), 6:37.
CC -- Slattery 2 run (Billmeyer kick), 2:55.
PB -- Spencer 4 run (Wyatt kick), 11:52.
PB -- Stith 86 pass Wyatt (Wyatt kick), 11:39.
CC -- Slatter 1 run (Billmeyer kick), 7:51.
CC -- Billmeyer 31 field goal, 10:10.
PB -- Stith 19 pass Wyatt (Wyatt kick), 7:12.
PB -- Stith 62 pass Wyatt (Wyatt kick), 3:56.