Centennial 45, Pope 17

Nothing could slow down the Centennial offense on Friday night at Pope High School.

A defensive back stuck to wide receiver Blane Mason, blanketing him against the sideline? The senior just high points the ball with ease over and over again. The Knights offense backed up inside of their own 1-yard line? Slot receiver and running back Cal Dickie can flip the field in one play without a problem.

Centennial (7-3, 7-1) answered every challenge in a 45-17 win over the Greyhounds, running their winning streak to seven games to close out the regular season after dropping their first three games of the season.

“I’m proud of these kids,” coach Michael Perry said after the win. “Losing three games like we did to start the season, they never quit believing in what we were trying to do. I can’t brag on my players and my assistant coaches enough.”

He did plenty of bragging about Mason and Dickie after the game, shaking his head in disbelief at the physical ability of the former.

“That’s the best wide receiver I’ve ever coached right there,” Perry said of Mason. “He can go up and get everything.”

It certainly seemed that way on Friday, as Mason hauled in five passes for 153 yards and two touchdowns. He had catches of 62, 28, 30 and 25 yards.

In the first half, Mason flashed his first big play on a 62-yard touchdown pass that was lofted by junior quarterback Max Brosmer over the top of one defender. Mason caught the ball in stride and fought off the potential tackler, taking it about 25 more yards after the catch into the end zone. On the Knights’ next offensive possession, he showed off his concentration as he stuck with a ball that was tipped by a defender and bounced off his hands into the air. He brought in the pass as he fell to the ground for a 28-yard gain that set up an 8-yard touchdown run by Brosmer on the next play to make the game 28-10 late in the second quarter.

After the Centennial defense forced a punt on Pope’s first offensive possession of the third quarter, Mason put a stamp on his performance with back-to-back explosive plays, catching a 30-yarder that set the Knights up at the Pope 25 and a 25-yarder on the next play for a score that made it 35-17.

“Some college coach is going to get a great player,” Perry said. “Wherever he goes, they’re getting a player.”

If Mason was the main event, then Dickie was the top undercard. After a decent first half in which he rushed for 17 yards and caught three passes for 40 yards, Dickie played the role of the closer in the final quarter and change. With 31 seconds remaining in the third quarter and the game still within reach, Pope put a punt inside the Centennial 1-yard line.

Instead of playing it safe with a dive or a quarterback keeper up the gut to give the offense some room to maneuver, Dickie took a pitch to the right inside the end zone. He outran a couple of defenders, hit the corner and took off down the sideline. He nearly broke it for what would undoubtedly have matched or broken the longest run in state history, but was forced back across the center of the field before finally being brought down at the Pope 25 for a 74-yard gain. That drive ended in a 38-yard field goal by kicker Nicky Solomon.

“We’re just blessed to have that kind of talent,” Perry said. “He can play in the slot, he can play running back for us. He can really do it all.”

Dickie finished with 139 yards and a touchdown on seven carries to go with his 40 yards receiver. Brosmer finished the game 11-of-16 passing for 233 yards and two touchdowns. Overshadowed in the offensive outburst, but no less important to the team’s success, were Emeka Nwanze (18 carries for 90 yards and a touchdown) and Julian Nixon (four carries for 30 yards and a touchdown, three catches for 40 yards).

Pope quarterback Jackson Thain passed for 141 yards and a touchdown in the loss, and running back Xavier O’Neal had 107 yards and a touchdown rushing. Zach Owens caught seven passes for 103 yards and a touchdown.

Pope (3-6, 3-4) finishes the regular season next Friday at home against Northview. Centennial’s regular season is finished. It is awaiting its first-round opponent.