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Centennial starts fast, claims 1st football state title — PHOTOS

Updated November 21, 2023 - 7:56 pm

Scoring on the opening drive of a game doesn’t ensure a victory. But for Centennial’s football team, grinding out a 15-play scoring drive on the game’s opening possession made winning a whole lot easier.

The Bulldogs went 76 years and ate up more than six minutes on the opening drive to take a lead they would hold throughout en route to a 49-31 victory over Sunrise Mountain for the Class 4A state title at Allegiant Stadium. It is the first state football title for Centennial.

“I think it was the reason we won the game,” Centennial quarterback Victor Plotnikov said. “To start that way, it puts not only the offense on track, but the defense, too. They came with an energy that everyone wanted and everyone needed to finish out this game the way we did.”

The Bulldogs (11-1) used a mix of run and pass, with six players touching the ball on that opening drive. The longest play was a 15-yard pas from Plotnikov to Dale Flores for one of six first downs Centennial recorded on that possession.

Freshman Kolten Silbernagel capped the drive with a 1-yard scoring plunge with 5:44 left in the first quarter.

“It was crucial,” first-year Centennial coach DJ Campbell said of the opening drive. “We lean on our offense so heavily. And they’ve been the backbone for us for a lot of the season.”

Plotnikov hit Angelo Ahern in stride near the goal line for a 40-yard TD pass to cap the next Centennial drive and put the Bulldogs up 14-0 with 3:18 left in the first quarter.

Sunrise Mountain (9-2) cut the lead to 14-12 on a 5-yard TD run by quarterback Christein Thompson, set up by a 42-yard interception return by Dario Starts.

But Plotnikov helped the Bulldogs regain the momentum, connecting with Logan Weimer for a 28-yard TD pass with seven seconds left in the half to make it 21-12.

Sunrise Mountain made things interesting again with Aushoj Cunningham scoring on a 31-yard run to cut the lead to 21-18 with 10:26 to go in the third quarter. But Kyren Harris returned the ensuing kick 79 yards for a touchdown, and Centennial was essentially in control from there.

Plotnikov completed 20 of 29 passes for 204 yards and two touchdowns and added a rushing score for the Bulldogs. Sophomore Brogan Church contributed TD runs of 2 and 3 yards for Centennial, which was 0-9 last season and just 1-17 the last two seasons combined while competing in Class 5A.

“I’ve been working so hard for this for three years, two of those years struggling bad,” Plotnikov said. “But we came through, persevered as a team. All the seniors that stuck through this with me, I’m so incredibly proud of them. It’s an incredible moment.”

Cunningham finished with 177 yards on 27 carries, and Thompson rushed for two scores and threw a 7-yard TD pass to Elijah Redic to lead the Miners.

The Bulldogs will move up to Class 5A Division III next season, but Plotnikov expects big things in the future for the program.

“The goal was never to just win the state championship,” Plotnikov said. “It was always to turn the whole program around. I think that’s what we did. There were a lot of youngsters on the team that are going to persevere and keep going and carry this program to a new level. And we left them in a good position to keep succeeding.”

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