As of Wednesday, October 4, 2017
DALLAS — Football is a game of inches.
That was certainly the case Friday night as the Panthers held on to defeat Dallas 21-14.
With Central leading 21-14, Dallas’ offense was on the move. The Dragons had the ball on the Panthers’ 8-yard line with less than 50 seconds to go in the fourth quarter and two timeouts.
Dallas had engineered a drive down the field that started from its own 19 in a sequence of events that was thrilling and nerve-wracking for both sides.
The Panthers had a potential game-sealing interception negated due to a defensive holding penalty, and a fumble by the Dragons left players scrambling for the ball. Dallas recovered and continued its march down the field.
Now, the Dragons were 8 yards away from a potential game-tying score. Quarterback Jaret Stewart handed the ball off to running back Brycen Grillo, who charged forward, advancing to the 1-yard line. Grillo fought to reach the end zone.
“Brycen is a true warrior,” Dallas coach Tracy Jackson said.
Central defensive back Isaiah Abraham met Grillo. He wasn’t thinking tackle.
“I knew it wasn't fourth down and it would have been hard to stop them,” Abraham said. “They didn't have very good ball security, so I focused on going for the strip.”
What happened next left one side celebrating and the other despondent.
“I saw (Brycen) reach out for the goal line,” Stewart said. “The defensive back just ripped the ball from him. It was just a heartbreaking play.”
For the Panthers, the win was a big bounce back after losing to South Albany on Sept. 22.
“We played about as flat as you can play against South Albany,” Central coach Shane Hedrick said. “I’m pleased with how the guys bounced back.”
The win on the road was a little extra special for the Panthers.
“I got hurt during the first drive against Dallas last year,” Abraham said. “This one meant a lot to me.”
The game was a back-and-forth affair from the get-go.
“This particular game is always exciting,” Hedrick said. “If you go back the last five or six years, it always goes right down to the wire.”
Central opened the scoring with a 13-yard touchdown from Hunter Chase in the first quarter. Dallas answered with a touchdown pass to Tristan DeVries to pull within 7-6 in the second quarter. The Panthers would extend their lead before the half thanks to a 30-yard touchdown pass to Abraham.
After a Dallas fumble to open the second half, Central took a 21-6 lead after a 29-yard touchdown pass to Jesse Cable.
A 3-yard touchdown run by Jaret Stewart at the end of the third quarter pulled Dallas to within 21-14.
“I was a little disappointed in our play in the first half, to be honest,” Jackson said. “In all of our losses, we've watched some pretty good performances mixed with some less-than-stellar performances. Finding that consistency is what we are looking for.”
Central improved to 3-2 overall and 1-1 in Mid-Willamette Conference play.
The Dragons fell to 2-3 overall and 0-2 in MWC play.
Central will host Crescent Valley Friday at 7 p.m. The Raiders defeated Silverton 33-13 on Friday.
“We’re going to see one of the state’s best athletes at any level in Talanoa Hufanga,” Hedrick said. “He’s a special football player that makes plays that none of us are used to seeing. We will do our best to slow him down. They have other threats to watch for. On top of that, it’s Homecoming.”
Dallas will host South Albany Friday at 7 p.m.
“It's going to be a physical game,” Jackson said. “They run the ball well out of a couple formations. It's a big week for everyone. We'll come out and fight and see what happens.”
Notes: Central MVP: Hunter Chase. Offensive Player of the Game: Peter Mendazona. Defensive: Isaiah Abraham. Special Teams: Robert Deleon.