SUNSET REGION: Retooled Centennial doesn't lower expectations


High school football coaches like to say that success breeds success.

Centennial’s Leon Evans will find out if that’s true this fall.

The Bulldogs were second in the Sunset Region last season, finishing 9-3, with two of the losses to eventual state champion Bishop Gorman. But Centennial graduated 35 seniors and has little experience back this fall.

“(We lost) 35 seniors, and 80 percent of those kids could flat-out play,” Evans said. “So that’s tough.”

Centennial, which opens its season at 11 a.m. Saturday against J Serra Catholic (Calif.) in Mission Viejo, Calif., returns just two starters on each side of the ball. But that hasn’t lowered expectations.

Senior running back Lantz Worthington said last season’s success is spurring the team to do even more.

“It’s motivation for us to get farther in the season,” Worthington said. “And we know what we’ve got to work toward now.”

Centennial graduated offensive leaders Austin Turley, who passed for 1,349 yards and 16 touchdowns, and Coby Newton, who led the team with 1,356 rushing yards and 13 scores. But the bigger offensive losses might have come on the line.

To help offset those losses, Evans switched to a spread offense this season to better suit his personnel.

“We’re a little bit smaller up front than we’ve been in the past, but we’re athletic up front, so we can run,” Evans said. “So we’ve got to get the ball out in space and get out to the perimeter and run.”

With Newton and Turley gone, Worthington will be called on to shoulder the load offensively.

He flashed tremendous big-play ability in the return game and spotting Newton last season. Worthington rushed for 644 yards and 10 touchdowns.

“The thing about Lantz in the spread offense is he has great hands,” Evans said. “So that’s going to help us out as another receiver, as well.

“Getting him in space is going to be key for us.”

Evans said senior Kyle Carden will start at quarterback, but the receiving corps is a question mark. The Bulldogs graduated their top four receivers, and Worthington (10 catches, 177 yards) is the only returnee who caught at least 10 passes.

“We’re going to put four new guys out there at that receiver spot,” Evans said. “So that’s one of the areas where we’re kind of concerned right now.”

But Evans said going to the up-tempo spread offense has energized not only the team but also the coaching staff.

“I really like it for the simple fact that I’m having fun coaching again,” Evans said. “We’re bouncing around; we’re always moving. For the first time in a long time, I’m having fun coaching.”

Centennial’s defense doesn’t have any more experience than its offense, so the Bulldogs will lean on returning linebackers Toby Lopez, who led the team with 126 tackles, and Josh Gray.

“Me and him have been together since eighth grade,” Gray said. “We kind of go hand in hand and feed off each other. I feel like we’ll do pretty good there.”

Gray said opponents might be overlooking Centennial because of its lack of experience.

“Everyone doubts us because we lost a lot of seniors,” Gray said. “But I still feel like we’ve got a solid group.

“We’ve kind of built a reputation since I’ve been here for having a good football team. We just need to continue that.”

Evans said those overlooking his team could be sorry.

“Come playoff time,” he said. “we could be a scary team.”

Contact prep sports editor Damon Seiters at dseiters@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4587. Follow @DamonSeiters on Twitter.

 

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