The blue-collar, lunch-pail mentality team left US Bank Stadium with gold medals.
Forget the flash, glitz or glamour, Centennial wants to line up against its opponent and go mano a mano.
Marcus Whiting had two rushing touchdowns and a save to save the game, Daylen Cummings ran for a score and had another and the bruised Cougars held off Edina 28-27 Friday in the Class 6A championship game for the the school’s first state football crown.
“We’ve been dreaming of this since we were little,” Cummings said.
If you’ve been waiting this long, why not do it with some end-game excitement?
Sonny Villegas hauled in a 21-yard touchdown run from Mason West with 16 seconds left to bring the Hornets within one.
Coach Jason Potts told Edina, trailing 28-14 early in the fourth quarter, to go for the win. Edina scored a touchdown on a 6-yard run to West with 3:47 left.
“With the way they were moving the football…I think we had an advantage going there,” Potts said.
But Whiting stopped Chase Bjorgaard less than a yard short of the goal line and the Cougars escaped.
“It was kind of like a setback, but we played it well,” linebacker Timothy Ball said.
“I was just there, standing, and it’s such a feeling and such a relief because honestly, at first I thought he was there until we watched the replay and he was little,” said Cummings, who also plays in the secondary.
Maverick Harper added 74 rushing yards for the Cougars (12-1), in a title game for the second time in school history. Centennial returned to Hutchinson for the 1984 Class A crown.
A big difference was that the century was approaching in the clutch.
The Cougars were 5-for-7 on fourth down. And their defense also made some big plays early in the final quarter.
Down 21-14, Edina’s John Warpinski — who had two scores from one yard out — was stopped on fourth-and-2 by Ball and Caden Coopersmith near the Cougars 44 on the opening play of the fourth quarter.
Two plays later, Cummings came around the left end for a 38-yard run to the Edina 17. Three plays later, Whiting scored from the 11 for a 28-14 lead.
Cummings finished with a team-high 119 rushing yards and finished 6 of 12 for 70 passing yards.
Two fourth-down conversions were part of a 16-play drive for a 21-7 lead with five seconds left in the first half, the points coming on a textbook back shoulder completed by Josh Lee in the corner before the end zone.
Whiting had a 3-yard run near midfield and Cummings had seven yards when he needed three. From the 25, Ty Burgoon hauled in a 17-yard reception in double coverage, and three plays later, Cummings found Lee.
“We’re going to run with the ball and we’re going to take chances on fourth and base,” Centennial coach Mike Diggins said. “We got stopped the first time tonight, but we came back and did a better job.”
Each team faced a short fourth down during their first practices, and each came up short. However, Harper converted a fourth-and-2 on the ensuing Centennial drive to set up a 2-yard scoring drive by Whiting 33 seconds into the second quarter.
A Lee interception led the Cougars to the second score of the second quarter: a 15-yard third-down attempt by Cummings.
However, the Hornets (9-4) quickly responded with passes of 44 yards to Villegas and 24 yards to Meyer Swinney to set up a one-yard run by Warpinski less than two minutes later.