CLOVIS -- It was a night for the Clovis High defense.
The seventh-seeded Cougars shut down 10th-seeded Centennial until the fourth quarter and coasted to a 31-21 win at Lamonica Stadium Friday night.
The win propels Clovis (8-3) into a Central Section Division I playoff rematch with second-seeded Liberty (9-1), which had a bye Friday. The game will be played at Liberty.
A year ago, Liberty was the eighth seed and it KO'd then-top-seeded Clovis from the playoffs.
"We tried to worry about Centennial first," said Clovis coach Rich Hammond. "But we're excited to have the chance to go out and play Liberty next week, no ifs, ands or buts about it."
On this night, Centennial (5-6) not only battled Clovis but the emotion of not having head coach Kevin Sneed on the sidelines.
Sneed, who has been battling throat cancer, was with the Golden Hawks all week in practice but was unable to make the trip to Clovis for Friday's playoff game. It's the only game this season Sneed has missed.
"We've had a lot of adversity," said acting head coach Mike Gregg. "You noticed that Coach Sneed is not here tonight.
"We've been battling through this the last 5-6 weeks. Our kids have hung in there. ... Our kid will learn something from this."
"This whole season has been a fight," said Centennial junior quarterback Andrew Hansen, who was 17-of-30 for 156 yards and a 19-yard touchdown pass to Malcolm Johnson. Hansen added a 1-yard TD plunge late in the game.
"Everything we've tried to do is win for Coach Sneed. It's been a battle for us," Hansen said.
Sophomore running back Brandon Robinson had a 61-yard touchdown run in the second quarter that pulled Centennial within 10-7, but that was as close as the Golden Hawks got.
"(Not having) Coach Sneed was a big deal for us," said Robinson, who had 101 yards on 18 carries. "It was really sad (not having) a leader like that.
"But next year we'll be something to be reckoned with. Coach Sneed will be back and we'll be way better."
Clovis quarterback R.J. Hartmann threw for 622 yards in two matchups vs. Centennial the past two seasons before Friday. He had 200 first-quarter passing yards on Sept. 13 this season when he led Clovis to a 28-21 win.
Gregg said the game plan was to go with mostly three-man rushes. That left Hartmann with plenty of time to throw but prevented big-yardage plays downfield. Hartmann was 15-of-25 for 177 yards and two touchdowns.
"The first time we played them he caught us three times," Gregg said of this season's earlier game.
"They burned our different blitzes so this time we said we were going to sit in our zone and we'd blitz on certain sets."
Clovis controlled the line of scrimmage.
When Hartmann wasn't throwing, senior running back Marlon Watkins did the damage.
Watkins finished with 119 yards on 25 carries with touchdown runs of 1 and 3 yards, both in the fourth quarter.
Hartmann's first touchdown pass, a 16-yard play to Gavin Brar, came on a fourth-and-1 play. Brar was three steps behind the defense after a nice play-action by Hartmann.
The Centennial defense stepped up several times, most notably when a Clovis 27-yard field goal was blocked in the second quarter that prevented the Cougars from extending a 10-0 lead. Robinson's 61-yard TD run followed five plays later.
Through three quarters, Clovis limited the Golden Hawks to 141 net yards, with only 39 yards in the third quarter.
Hansen threw for 145 yards in the fourth quarter.
"We got down a little bit and we had to start throwing more than we're used to," Gregg said. "We're a running team."