CENTERVILLE — Homecoming. A new school record. But most importantly: a Centerville victory.
The Big Reds stayed alive in the post-season race Friday, using a school-record performance by Sawyer Wardlow to overwhelm the short-staffed Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont Rockets 55-20.
Wardlow tallied all eight of Centerville’s touchdowns on Friday, a single-game school record that bested a seven-touchdown performance by Jaxson Ocker in 2018.
Against the backdrop of Centerville’s homecoming celebration and final home game of their season, the Big Reds faced what was essentially a must-win game to keep their playoff hopes alive.
The Big Reds opened their first drive on their 41-yard line. Centerville took less than 90 seconds to score. After a Wardlow quarterback keeper gave the Big Reds a first down, a pass to Griffin Weber gained about 13 yards before he fumbled the ball, but it was recovered by Kade Mosley and advanced to the EBF 17 yard line. With a 17-yard run, Wardlow put the Big Reds on the board.
Eddyville responded less than 30 seconds later, with a quick drive capped by a 10-yard run by Blake Jager.
The squads volleyed two other scores in the quarter, with Wardlow using a quarterback-option play to score on a 33-yard run. Eddyville answered with a 92-yard touchdown pass from Alex Garmon to Jesse Cornelison to tie the game 14-14.
After trading punts, Centerville hit the board again with 28 seconds left in the first quarter. Wardlow passed the ball to Jayden Ruiz for a 32-yard reception. Wardlow finished the drive with a three-yard touchdown run. That gave Centerville a 21-14 lead — one they’d not surrender.
In their first possession of the second quarter, it appeared penalties might cut it short for the Big Reds. Back-to-back false start penalties started the drive, followed by a negative-yardage run play. An eight-yard pass to Alejandro Alvarado came before the third false start penalty of the drive. A penalty for an ineligible man downfield erased a would-be 56-yard touchdown reception by Ruiz. On third down and 26, Wardlow scrambled for a 25-yard gain. The Big Reds went into a hurry-up offense to convert on 4th and 1. They’d eventually score on a 17-yard run by Wardlow.
With 4:06 left in the first half, Centerville’s Wardlow threw a 14-yard reception to Alvarado to set up a one-yard keeper by Wardlow.
Eddyville stayed within striking distance with a 46-yard touchdown run by Cornelison, to make the score 35-20 heading into halftime.
Wardlow opened the second half with a four-yard touchdown run to tie the school record. Forty-six seconds into the fourth quarter, Wardlow broke the record with a 32-yard touchdown run that gave the Big Reds their final score of the game.
Centerville (3-3, 1-2) breaks a three-game losing streak in district play with Friday’s win. They finish the season on the road, first to Mid-Prairie and then to Central Lee.
Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont (1-5, 0-3) has dropped their last five games. They’re hoping for redemption as they host winless Central Lee on Friday in their homecoming game.