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Football recap: Centennial savors shot to play for state title

Trailing late in the first half in the Class 4A Desert League title game, Centennial’s football team needed a spark.

Somerset-Losee led 14-7 as time clicked off in the second quarter, but the Bulldogs’ defense came up with a momentum-swinging play.

Jhbari Christmas returned an interception 90 yards for a touchdown before halftime, and quarterback Victor Plotnikov threw an 80-yard touchdown pass on the first play of the second half, as the top-seeded Bulldogs held off No. 2 Somerset-Losee 35-28 to win the league title at Centennial.

Centennial (10-1) will play Sunrise Mountain (9-1) — which defeated Canyon Springs 6-0 in the Mountain League title game Friday — for the 4A state title Nov. 21 at Allegiant Stadium at a time to be determined.

While Centennial has breezed through most of its 4A competition, first-year coach DJ Campbell the team’s resiliency throughout the season has been the biggest change in the Bulldogs’ program.

“It just goes to show their growth over this last year,” Campbell said. “A lot of the boys admit in the past they kind of shut down when things didn’t go their way, but they’ve just continued to fight, believe and play for one another.”

Plotnikov completed 12 of 20 passes for 259 yards and two touchdowns, and DJ Flores had five receptions for 162 yards and a touchdown for Centennial.

Somerset-Losee didn’t go away easily, but Centennial’s defense came up with a pair of key stops late to secure the win.

Tied at 28 with 1:15 left in the fourth quarter, the Bulldogs’ defense came up with a third-down stop, and their offense responded, driving down the field and scoring a rushing touchdown to take the lead with 24 seconds left.

On Somerset-Losee’s first play of the ensuing drive, Centennial came up with a sack and made another tackle on the following play to secure the league title.

“They just don’t give up,” Campbell said. “That was the biggest thing that we preached to them after the game was the fact that they didn’t give up. They kept fighting and never doubted their abilities.”

Campbell, a North Las Vegas native and Cheyenne graduate, was an assistant at Centennial in 2019 when the Bulldogs lost to Liberty in the 4A title game 50-7. Campbell said there’s “unfinished business” for him and two other assistants on staff who coached on the 2019 team. He said he’s preached to the team to “finish the job” this time around.

“We’ve been telling them to just be great,” Campbell said. “Let’s be the first (Centennial) football team to win the state championship. The program had a taste of it and then fell off, but now we’re back. Let’s finish the job not just for us, but for the ones who came before.”

Centennial won just one game the last two seasons in 5A and dropped down to 4A in realignment.

With Campbell, a former California standout in college who has NFL experience with the Carolina Panthers and San Francisco 49ers, leading the way, the Bulldogs have a chance to make school history under Allegiant Stadium’s bright lights.

“I’m super excited,” Campbell said. “As soon as I took the job, that’s what I said what the goal was (to play at Allegiant Stadium in the 4A title game) and the boys followed suit. Now, it’s a realization that it’s really happening. It’s very exciting and awesome.”

Up next

The state title matchups are set.

Three games will be played Nov. 18 at UNR’s Mackay Stadium, and four will be played Nov. 21 at Allegiant Stadium. As of Saturday night, times for the games have not been announced.

Here is the state championship schedule:

Saturday, Nov. 18

At UNR’s Mackay Stadium

5A Division III: Galena vs. Legacy

3A: Truckee vs. SLAM Academy

1A: Eureka vs. Pahranagat Valley

Tuesday, Nov. 21

At Allegiant Stadium

5A Division I: Liberty vs. Bishop Gorman

5A Division II: Bishop Manogue vs. Faith Lutheran

4A: Sunrise Mountain vs. Centennial

2A: Pershing County vs. Lake Mead Academy

Contact Alex Wright at awright@reviewjournal.com. Follow @AlexWright1028 on X.

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