One picturesque play, which came courtesy of Centennial running back Torrence Whalum, made all the difference in a gruesome game.
Whalum took an option pitch from quarterback Tyson Turley, broke three tackles, cut back across the field and raced 69 yards before he was knocked out at the 1-yard line.
Whalum's wild run set up Josh Hardy for a touchdown dive on the next play, and the host Bulldogs went on to defeat visiting Green Valley 13-0 on Friday night.
"Of course, my spirits were down because everybody was kind of gloomy," said Whalum, who broke loose on the third play of the third quarter. "I felt I had to do something to pump everybody up, and what better way?"
Except for Whalum's run, there was little offensive artistry in the season opener for both teams.
"It was your typical first game of the season. It's going to be a little sloppy," Centennial coach George Baker said.
In a scoreless first half, the Bulldogs committed four turnovers and the Gators were held to 29 total yards.
Centennial's attacking 4-3 defense made the going miserable for Green Valley, which gained 10 yards or more on only three of 43 offensive plays.
Gators star Frank Satterfield carried 18 times for 64 yards, but every yard was hard-earned and he had little support.
"They brought a lot of pressure up the middle and created havoc all night for us," Green Valley coach Matt Gerber said.
"Their front seven did a hell of a job. They were stuffing up the middle and getting to our quarterback."
The Gators' quarterback rotation of Dominic McGovern and Nick Libonati combined to complete 5 of 19 passes for 38 yards.
Each played two quarters and each threw one interception.
The Bulldogs' Chris Henderson ended one scoring threat by intercepting a Libonati pass at the 5-yard line in the second quarter. In the third quarter, Centennial linebacker Nick Romonoski intercepted a throw by McGovern as Green Valley was moving into scoring range.
"It didn't seem like either one stood out like I was hoping," Gerber said of his quarterbacks.
"I told our players, hopefully this is a wake-up call for them. We've got a long season. It's back to reality."
Whalum, a 5-foot-10-inch senior, carried 15 times for 107 yards.
He called his 69-yard burst the "momentum shift" that put away the Gators.
Hardy, who capped the drive with the 1-yard run, finished with 69 yards on 12 carries.
Julius Smith added a 6-yard touchdown run on fourth down with 21 seconds remaining in the game. He had 47 yards on four carries.
"I'm going to go celebrate," said Baker, who spent two years as a Centennial assistant and won his first game as head coach.