Turnovers and a slow start on offense put the Centennial football team in a deep hole against visiting Bullard on Friday night.
A determined effort by the Golden Hawks almost allowed them to climb completely out of it but instead the Knights held for a 34-25 victory.
Down, 27-6 late in the third quarter, Centennial rallied behind an inspired effort from Zach Hernandez, and scored 19 straight points to make it 27-25 before falling short in front of a race use home crowd.
“We have to execute better in the first half and stop the turnovers,” Centennial coach Chad Brown said. “You can’t turn over the ball and expect to beat quality opponents.”
The Golden Hawks (1-2) committed four turnovers, which helped Bullard (1-3) pull out to the big lead.
Hernandez had one of them, a fumble on a second-quarter kickoff return that led to a Knight’s touchdown.
The senior wide receiver/defensive back atoned for his mistake in the second half.
After Morgan Dutton’s 2-yard TD run cut the Bullard advantage to 27-12 with 1:15 left in the third quarter, Hernandez intercepted Knight’s quarterback Kalei Acfelle near midfield.
Two plays later Hernandez hauled in a 14-yard TD pass from Will Alexander to make the score 27-18.
On the Knights ensuing possession they drove the ball down to the Centennial 10 yard line, eating more than seven minutes off the clock. However, on first and goal from the 10, Bullard running back Marcus Fulcher fumbled and Hernandez scooped the ball and raced 75 yards for a touchdown, cutting the Knights’ lead to 27-25.
That would be as close as the Golden Hawks would get as Fulcher put the game out of reach with a 62-yard touchdown run with 2:22 remaining.
“We almost mounted a comeback here, a little short,” Brown said. “But like I’ve said before I’d rather not be in that situation. We have a darn good team. I believe in these guys. We just have to execute better.”
Fulcher finished with 181 yards rushing and three touchdowns on 35 carries.
Bullard parlayed a strong passing attack into a 20-6 halftime lead. Following a scoreless first quarter Acfalle got the Knights offense rolling as the senior quarterback connected on a pair of second-quarter touchdown passes.
Bullard scored touchdowns on its final three possessions of the opening half.
Acfalle hooked up with Kai Sunamoto for a 30-yard TD pass early in the second quarter to stake the Knights to a 7-0 lead.
Centennial answered immediately, capping off a nine-play, 68-yard drive with a 15-yard touchdown pass from Alexander to Zach Hartsfield. Fulcher’s 24-yard TD run on a draw play with 41 seconds left in the first half extended Bullard’s advantage to 13-6.
Centennial fumbled the ensuing kickoff allowing the Knights just enough time to score again before intermission when Acfalle found Carter Anderson in the front right-corner of the end zone.
Acfalle was 8 of 9 for 155 yards in the first half.
Centennial had just 121 yards of net offense in the first half.