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Central football team beats Festus for second time in six days
Central's defense dominated throughout Thursday night's first-round district game.
Once Central's offense started finishing drives with touchdowns, visiting Festus had no chance.
Central pulled away from a 6-6 halftime tie and rolled to a 31-6 victory in a battle of Tigers.
"I knew we could do it. We beat them last week," senior defensive end Jared Thomas said of Friday's 24-15 win at Festus that earned Central the home date.
Central's second victory over Festus in six days was not without complications, mainly because the Tigers failed to take advantage of their first-half opportunities.
The Tigers (4-6) had a chance to take control early. Their first offensive possession reached inside the Festus 5-yard line, but Central had to settle for a 24-yard field goal by senior Calvin Lovig.
Central's second offensive possession, after senior defensive lineman Marcus Dixon recovered a fumble at the Festus 22-yard line, reached inside the 10 before the Tigers lost a fumble for their only turnover.
After Festus (5-5) took a 6-3 lead in the second quarter, another Central drive that reached the 10-yard line fizzled and ended on a 28-yard Lovig field goal with 24 seconds left before halftime.
"We made mistakes in the red zone," senior wide receiver/defensive back Kyle Thompson said. "The score should have been about 50-6, but things happen."
What happened for Central was a dominant second half that didn't allow Festus room to breath.
Central coach Nathan Norman said he thought his players finally settled down at the intermission.
"I think our kids were a little timid in the first half. They were afraid they were going to screw things up," Norman said. "At halftime we made a few adjustments and put together a really good second half."
Central marched 80 yards for a go-ahead touchdown on the opening possession of the second half. Senior tailback Chris Martin scored on a 3-yard run, and Lovig's PAT made it 13-6.
The Tigers also scored on their next three possessions to blow open the contest.
"We all stepped it up in the second half," Thompson said.
The Tigers, after a Festus three-and-out and a short punt that appeared to be tipped, needed to drive just 40 yards for their second touchdown -- Martin's 1-yard plunge.
Thompson, the holder for kicks, threw a two-point conversion pass to Dixon to put the Tigers up 21-6 with 4 minutes, 27 seconds left in the third quarter.
Another Festus three-and-out resulted in Central needing to march only 43 yards for its third touchdown, a 15-yard run by Thompson on the first play of the final period. Lovig's PAT made it 28-6.
Lovig's third field goal of the contest and fifth of the season, a 32-yarder with 8:28 left, capped the scoring.
"Calvin had a really good game for us," said Norman about his senior who also booted four kickoffs into the end zone to help keep Festus backed up all night.
Martin led Central's 374-yard offensive performance by rushing for 179 yards on 33 carries. He has more than 950 yards on the season despite missing about 2 1/2 games with an ankle injury.
"The offensive line did great. I'm really proud of them," Martin said. "Our defense did great all game, but our offense was a little shaky in the first half. In the second half I think we came out a little more fired up and ready to go."
Central junior quarterback Dennis Vinson completed 5 of 8 passes for 123 yards. He was 4 of 4 for 101 yards in the second half.
Thompson caught two passes for 50 yards, and junior tight end Jacob Boerboom had a 48-yard reception.
While Central's offense was solid, the Tigers' defense again dominated Festus.
Festus managed just 144 total yards, and only 61 in the second half. The Tigers had 194 yards against Central last week.
"They really didn't get much against us," Thompson said. "I think the defense did an excellent job."
Festus' only touchdown came after the Tigers ran for 17 yards on a fake punt. Sophomore Nathan Cummings scored the TD on a 32-yard run.
Thomas had two early tackles for loss to spark the Tigers' defense.
Senior defensive back Alex Davis-Carter intercepted his sixth pass of the year late in the game. Central's single-season school record for interceptions is seven.
Senior linebacker Rene Reyes capped the defensive performance with an interception in the closing seconds.
"I thought the defense was very good the whole game," Norman said.
Central now will gear up for Wednesday's district semifinal matchup at Sikeston, the top seed for the eight-team district.
The Bulldogs (9-1) have beaten Central six straight times, including a 25-21 comeback victory on Oct. 5 in Cape Girardeau.
"All I can say is we're coming," said Martin, who missed the earlier meeting with Sikeston because of his ankle injury.
C -- Calvin Lovig 24 FG, 7:02
F -- Nathan Cummings 32 run (kick blocked), 4:51
C -- Lovig 28 FG, :24
C -- Chris Martin 3 run (Lovig kick), 8:56
C -- Martin 1 run (Marcus Dixon pass from Kyle Thompson), 4:27
C -- Thompson 15 run (Lovig kick), 11:52
C -- Lovig 32 FG, 8:28
RUSHING -- Festus, Cummings 12-71, Jordan Wilkes 10-17, Austin Cook 1-17, Jaden Reddick 1-5, Andrew Hayden 3-minus 9, Brennen Shular 1-minus 5, Carter Propst 1-minus 3. Central, Martin 33-179, Mikey Jones 8-44, Kyle Thompson 1-15, Dennis Vinson 2-5, Jacob Campbell 2-4, Keneen Abraham 2-4, Dayveion Graham 1-4, Jared Thomas 1-1, team 3-minus 5.
PASSING -- Festus, Hayden 5-13-2-51. Central, Vinson 5-8-0-123.
RECEIVING -- Festus, Cummings 2-24, Wilkes 2-18, Travis Spraul 1-9. Central, Thompson 2-50, Jacob Boerboom 1-48, Campbell 1-14, Garan Evans 1-11.