Centennial’s flag football team gave Palo Verde its first loss of the season on Dec. 16 in a nonleague game after the Panthers had started their campaign 5-0.
The Bulldogs also delivered the season-ending knockout on Monday.
Aliyah Wyrick scored three touchdowns, including two on the ground, and Centennial’s defense held tight on a two-point conversion late to hold off Palo Verde, 20-18 in the Division I Sunset Region final at Rancho High.
Centennial (22-3) will face Sunrise League champion Foothill (24-1) in the Clark County School District final at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at Rancho.
“The girls really buckled down. It was a very physical game,” Centennial coach John Roberts said. “Girls on both sides were falling down, getting hurt. The refs let them play, and my girls stuck it out and played really tough.”
Palo Verde rallied from a 20-6 deficit in the second half and pulled within 20-18 on a 2-yard touchdown run by senior Cydnee Bush.
Howver the Panthers were stopped on a two-point conversion with just 31.6 seconds to go, as quarterback Caitlin Oxford’s pass to the middle of the field was broken up by Courtney Reeves.
“I just wanted to see their formation because they were killing us with the run early on,” said Roberts, who called a timeout before the two-point conversion play. “We just manned up and said, ‘Go.’ We put one of our best players on (Palo Verde’s Betsy Bellinger), who is a tall girl and was catching everything. And we just blitzed them. It worked.”
Centennial quarterback Halli Erickson, who completed 5 of 10 passes for 49 yards and a touchdown, kneeled the ball on the ensuing possession to end the game.
Wyrick ran for 111 yards and two touchdowns on 11 carries and caught two passes for 10 yards and a score for the Bulldogs, who led 7-6 at halftime. After catching a 6-yard TD pass just before halftime, Wyrick opened the second half with a 26-yard run before capping a nine-play drive with a 1-yard TD run to make it 13-6 with 24:53 to play.
“That was huge,” Roberts said. “We needed momentum and to go out and score on the first series.”
Centennial grabbed a 20-6 lead after Wyrick avoided three tackles en route to a 9-yard TD run up the gut with 16:55 left.
“Aliyah is an athlete,” Roberts said. “Across the board, she just does whatever we ask her to do. She always steps up.”
LeNae Thomas also ran for 92 yards on 10 carries for the Bulldogs.
Bush had two touchdown runs for Palo Verde (14-7), and Bellinger caught a 7-yard TD pass from Oxford for the Panthers.
Contact reporter Ashton Ferguson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0430. Follow him on Twitter: @af_ferguson