Centennial makes it count against Norco with 48-24 victory

·3 min read
NORCO, CA - OCTOBER 15, 2021: Norco running back Jaydn Ott (8) tries to stay on his feet after being tackled by Corona Centennial defensive back Jaden Mickey (8) during the first half at Norco High School on October 15, 2021 in Norco, California.(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)
Norco running back Jaydn Ott tries to stay on his feet after getting hit by Corona Centennial defensive back Jaden Mickey in the first half Friday night. (Gina Ferazzi/Los Angeles Times)

Six months of waiting. Six months of plotting. Six months of preparing to seek revenge. Corona Centennial players, coaches and fans just could not forget what happened on April 3, 2021, the day Norco ended the Huskies’ 57-game football win streak in the Big VIII League with a 38-36 victory.

“It felt like they kicked our butts,” coach Matt Logan said.

Ever since, the Huskies have counted down the days to Friday night’s rematch in cowboy country, where waving American flags stationed on pickup trucks could be seen above Norco’s sold-out stadium on Hillside Avenue on a warm, windy evening.

The competition was fierce. Centennial started fast, then Norco countered. By the third quarter, Centennial got big plays from Jaden Mickey and Jayson Cortes to help the Huskies (8-0, 3-0) pull away for an impressive 48-24 victory.

Mickey had an 85-yard kickoff return for a touchdown and Cortes took a shovel pass 44 yards for a touchdown for a 41-24 lead with just over three minutes left in the third quarter.

Centennial was aggressive from the outset, electing not to punt on fourth and five from its 49 on its opening drive. Nathan Jimenez ended up catching a 51-yard touchdown pass from Izzy Carter and finished with four catches for 94 yards and two touchdowns. The Huskies hoped they were sending a message that this game would be different.

Except Norco (6-2, 2-1) proved in the first half that its spring victory was no fluke, opening a 17-7 lead. Quarterback Kyle Crum’s ability to improvise continued to cause trouble for the Huskies. He completed 11 of 17 passes for 201 yards and threw touchdown passes of eight yards to Elijah Rodriguez and five yards to Bryant Lemus in the first half. Austin Logan also had an interception to set up a score.

The Cougars still trailed 21-17 at halftime as Centennial came back behind one-yard touchdown runs from Cornell Hatcher and Cameron Jones. Norco missed on a 32-yard field-goal attempt to end the half.

Rodriguez, a 5-foot-8 receiver, kept getting open in the Centennial secondary. He had six receptions for 118 yards in the first half for Norco.

In the second half, the Huskies picked up their defensive pressure as former Centennial linemen Korey Foreman and Drake Jackson from USC provided encouragement on the sideline. Gavriel Lightfoot, Luke Conti and Jesse Schumacher each had third-quarter sacks and Crum missed on a string of six consecutive passes.

Carter gave Centennial a 27-17 lead with an eight-yard touchdown run. Then Crum came back with a two-yard touchdown run before Mickey’s kickoff return was a game breaker.

This game helped fill out the expected Division 1 playoff bracket. Centennial should be no worse than the No. 4 seed. Norco is also a likely Division 1 participant. It remains to be seen if any teams can challenge the Trinity League threesome of Santa Ana Mater Dei, Anaheim Servite and Bellflower St. John Bosco.

There was drama before the game. Bally Sports West found a way to televise the game even though four valuable camera lenses were stolen from one of its trucks earlier in the day. Replacements had to be brought in from Burbank. They used MacGyver-like ingenuity and smaller lenses to get the game televised while waiting for new lenses to be delivered in traffic.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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