Tigers pounce on district win

Friday, October 20, 2006

Central forced seven turnovers in a 23-20 victory over Poplar Bluff.

Central's defense forced seven Poplar Buff turnovers, and the Tigers started Class 4 District 1 play with a 23-20 victory Thursday at Houck Stadium.

The Tigers improved to 3-5 and will host two-time defending district champion West Plains at home next week. West Plains will host Siketon today in the other District 1 first-week matchup.

"Any win we can get is a good win, whether it's district or not," Central coach Lawrence Brookins said. "Both teams have struggled this year. It was a big game, and next week will be the biggest game, and then the week after that."

Poplar Bluff (2-6) outgained Central 412-222, and had 21 first downs to just eight for Central. The Mules also had a decided edge in time of possession.

Mules senior quarterback Asa Wyatt was part of all seven turnovers, with three fumbles and four interceptions. Two of Wyatt's fumbles came within the red zone, and one of his interceptions was returned for a touchdown.

"We see that every week in the NFL, bend but don't break," Brookins said. "The bottom line is the scoreboard and getting the win."

Central sophomore Cantrell Andrews accounted for two of the interceptions, both in the second half. Andrews took the second pick about 40 yards for a touchdown to push the Tigers' lead to 23-7 with 8 minutes, 27 seconds remaining.

Tigers starting quarterback Blake Slattery also picked off two of Wyatt's passes. Central also had several big sacks in the second half as the line continued to put pressure on Wyatt.

"We got some good pressure on the quarterback," Slattery said. "For those two picks, it was right place, right time."

Slattery was key on offense as well, providing Central's two offensive scores. Late in the opening quarter Slattery scampered in from 11 yards to tie the score at 7-7.

Tyler McNabb put the Tigers up 10-7 in the closing minutes of the half with a 37-yard field goal.

A minute into the second half, Slattery put the Tigers ahead 17-7 with a 33-yard run. Slattery finished with 42 yards rushing after losing 26 yards on a pair of late sacks.

The lone blemish for Slattery came on an interception which went through the hands of George Hamilton in the end zone late in the fourth quarter. Slattery finished 9-of-16 passing for 142 yards.

Poplar Bluff staged a late comeback by scoring a pair of touchdowns over the final 3 minutes. Tim Stonecipher scored on a 10-yard pass from Wyatt with 2:49 left to narrow the gap to 23-13. A two-point conversion failed.

Central recovered the onside kick, but gave the Mules good field position at midfield following a botched fake punt with a little more than a minute remaining.

Patrick Edington scored on an 18-yard pass from Wyatt, and the extra point made it 23-20 with 14.7 seconds left.

Eric Ennis recovered the ensuing onside kick for Central to ice the game.

"This was a big win for us," Central linebacker Joe Uhls said. "This gives us a chance to tie for the conference championship, and this is a good springboard for us heading into next week."

Poplar Bluff had upset Jackson in conference play last week, handing the Indians their second loss of the year and first loss in conference play since 2003.

Jimmy Dye led Poplar Bluff in rushing with 74 yards. Wyatt threw for 201 yards, and Stonecipher finished with eight catches for 111 yards.

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