BURLESON — The body language and reaction gave away what happened. But in the end it didn’t matter what the Burleson Centennial Spartans and the Denison Yellow Jackets saw — it only mattered that the officials ruled the field goal good.
In a game that saw a little big of everything, including a flurry of turnovers and nearly 900 combined yards, the Jackets tied the scored four times in the second half but could never take the lead and Ben Harwell’s 25-yard field goal, which missed wide right but was called just as though it went through the uprights with 32 seconds left, was the difference as Burleson Centennial defeated Denison, 52-49, to close out non-district play on Friday night.
“It’s not just one play. There were a lot of plays,” Denison head coach Chad Rogers said. “Everyone’s going to talk about the field goal at the end. We had two fumbles they scored off. There were a bunch of missed tackles. You left it in their hands. You can’t leave it in the officials’ hands.”
The Jackets (1-1) had a chance to either tie or win the game and got as far as the Centennial (2-0) 29-yard line before Cade Gordy’s throw to the end zone as time expired was intercepted.
It was a wild finish to a back-and-fourth second half. Both teams rushed for more than 300 yards — Denison had 329 and Centennial gained 314 — but the Jackets had three turnovers to one by the Spartans.
Jadarian Price had 175 yards and four touchdowns (three in the second half) on 24 carries to pace Denison. The freshman’s final TD of the night with 2:41 pulled Denison even at 49. A 27-yard kickoff return by Shona Taylor allowed the Jackets to start in Centennial territory and eight plays later Price scored.
It was the fourth time the Jackets did that after the break. Price scored on a 54-yard run to the left side, maintaining his balance on an ankle tackle to tie the game at 28 in the middle of the third.
“We fought back,” Rogers said. “The effort with these kids is always there. There’s a lot of great things. We just have to clean up some stuff.”
The Spartans went right back in front, however, when Kyle Burns hit Chris Mosley deep for a 59-yard touchdown pass on third-and-24 to give the lead right back to Centennial.
Denison couldn’t muster anything offensively but Zaelin Wimbish recovered a fumble at the Spartan three-yard line and on the first play Price scored with 1:35 left in the third to tie the game at 35.
The teams continued to trade touchdowns. Centennial went up 42-35 on a sneak by Burns with 8:18 remaining. The Jackets tied the game in just three plays, the last a nine-yard run up the middle by Kyrion Rosser, who had 16 carries for 77 yards and two touchdowns.
It was 49-42 on the ensuing Centennial possession when Jaylon Jackson took a toss and went 47 yards down the right side for a TD with 4:37 left.
The counter-punch by Price left too much time on the clock and Denison’s special teams didn’t help with three straight kickoff penalties, as well as a short kick that put Centennial at the Denison 39.
“We’ve got to fix that as coaches,” Rogers said. “You can’t do that stuff and win.”
The Spartans had first-and-10 at the 13-yard line before they started going backwards, ultimately settling for Harwell’s kick.
The Jackets picked up a pair of first downs and a Centennial penalty moved them five yards closer but still out of field-goal range, leading to the final heave by Gordy, who was 8-of-12 for 128 yards and a TD.
“If we had some more time, could have gotten maybe 10 yards closer, then we might have tried (a field goal),” Rogers said.
Denison cut the half-time deficit to just a touchdown when it scored in the final minute of the second quarter. Gordy found Cayden Earnhart, who led the team with four catches for 65 yards, down field over the middle on third-and-13 and he bounced off a high tackle attempt and raced to the end zone for the 34-yard TD grab with 32 seconds left in the half to trim the margin to 28-21.
The teams spent the final three drives of the quarter trading touchdowns. The Jackets had gotten within 21-14 with 7:33 remaining in the second when Price cut back behind a block on the right side for a 13-yard scoring scamper. Denison was able to take advantage of a 15-yard punt which set it up at the Centennial 30.
A strong response by the Spartans gave them a brief two-score advantage. The 10-play drive covered 75 yards, all on the ground, and Jeff Kirven jumped over the pile from a yard out with 2:26 left. It was enough time for Denison to put together an answer heading into the locker room.
Burleson Centennial jumped to the early lead thanks to a pair of Denison fumbles.
The first touchdown by the Spartans came after the Jackets went three-and-out to open the game. Centennial started in Denison territory and David Robinson leaped over a defender on the left side of the end zone to haul in a 24-yard touchdown pass from Burns.
Gordy fumbled on the ensuing Denison possession and the Spartans started at the Jacket 35 with Jackson scoring on a 12-yard run for a 14-0 lead midway through the first quarter.
Denison went on a nine-play, 75-yard march to get within seven. Pierce Barker had a 22-yard catch, Price had a 24-yard reception out of the backfield and Rosser had a six-yard touchdown run.
Centennial recovered a fumble by Rosser at the Denison 33-yard line the next time the Jackets had the ball and in three plays led 21-7 when Burns, who finished with 25 carries for 98 yards, scored on a sneak on the first play of the second quarter.
“Spotting a team like that 14 points is pretty rough,” Rogers said. “They’ve got to show up and be ready to go to work. I think you can learn more from a loss, even though obviously you’d like to win. We have to be ready for district.”