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Central opens district with a slam
Seeking a fourth straight district title, the Central football team overcame its recent struggles to rout Sikeston 44-19 Thursday night at Houck Stadium.
After rushing for only 51 yards the past two games, junior running back Brandon Twiggs broke the Tigers' first offensive play for 63 yards. Two plays later Twiggs went in from three yards out to give Central a 7-0 lead less than two minutes into the Class 4, District 1 opener.
"The fullback did a great job hitting the linebacker," Twiggs said. "He gave me a great hole to run through. The first play to us sets the tempo for the whole game."
Central, No. 4 in the SEMO Top 10 poll, improved to 6-2 and enjoyed a breather after a couple of dramatic weeks. The Tigers lost to Jackson in the rain two weeks ago, and on Saturday they had to rally to beat a struggling Sumner team 17-14.
Twiggs' 63-yard run was one of several big plays for the Tigers' offense in the first quarter. After holding the Bulldogs (3-4) on their next series, Central got a touchdown from its newest receiver.
Mitch Craft scrambled to his left and hit a wide open Will Johnson for a 28-yard touchdown pass less than three minutes after the Tigers' first score. Johnson, who started the season as a running back, made his first start as a full-time receiver.
"It felt good," Johnson said. "They told me I was moving to receiver and I just said I'd do whatever I could to help the team."
The Bulldogs' offense gave Central another gift on their next possession. The Bulldogs, who already had lost a fumble, committed their second turnover following Johnson's touchdown.
Craft read Sikeston quarterback Stephen Miller's eyes, picked off a pass, and went 20 yards to give Central a 21-0 lead with 5:25 left in the first quarter.
Already rolling, the Tigers put an exclamation point on the first quarter when Craft hit Mark Dunaway for a 72-yard touchdown pass to give Central a 28-0 lead to end the quarter.
With another Twiggs touchdown late in the first half the Tigers had a 34-13 halftime lead, giving them more points in one half than the team had the last two games combined.
"Hopefully this is the start of a great run through the postseason," Central coach Lawrence Brookins said.
Central's running game had one of its most productive games of the season. Twiggs had his first 100-yard game of the season, finishing with 138 yards. In all, the Tigers had 245 yards rushing on 44 carries.
"I had struggled some running earlier in the year with injuries and all," Twiggs said. "This is my best game, and you can count on that there's going to be more."
Brookins said he was impressed with the running game.
"He ran hard," Brookins said of Twiggs. "Gabe Edwards ran hard as well; we need to get him the ball more. And the line did a good job tonight on both sides of the ball."
Craft finished with his third straight 200-yard passing game. He was 9-for-11 for 207 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.
Dunaway led the Tigers with six receptions for 149 yards. Johnson added three receptions for 58 yards.
"The way we played tonight, we showed everyone we're a championship-quality team," Johnson said. "This is a nice way to start districts. We got our spirits up and we're back on a roll."
Central will go to Perryville next Friday before ending the season at Poplar Bluff on Nov. 6. The Mules, who are undefeated at 6-0, play Perryville on Saturday in the other district matchup.
Twiggs said he thinks the team has put its struggles behind.
"You can't take anyone for granted," he said. "Every team has a bad game now and then. You just take it one game at a time."
With the game in hand Tyrone Reece took over for Craft at quarterback in the fourth quarter. The Tigers nearly cleared the bench on both sides of the ball.
Brookins said the Tigers who showed up Thursday were the team he's been waiting for all season.
"This is the expectations I've had for them all year," he said.
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