Centennial prepares for 5A title game rematch against Scottsdale Notre Dame Prep

Coyotes to play in fifth straight championship game
By: 
DARRELL JACKSON, Peoria Times Staff Writer

Photos by Darrell Jackson

Centennial junior Jayden Young makes a long run earlier this season for the Coyotes.

Senior Jeiel Stark and junior Marc Jacobs make a defensive stop earlier this season.

Photo Courtesy of Notre Dame Prep High School

Senior running back Jake Smith led the Saints to a 13-0 record with 1,070 receiving yards and 37 touchdowns.
 

Photo by Darrell Jackson

Centennial senior running back Tawee Walker, shown scoring a touchdown against nationally ranked Las Veags Bishop Gorman in Aug., will lead the Coyotes in the state title game Dec. 1.

“We have a team full of guys who really try to get the ball around to everyone who can contribute. We bring something different to the table and each side of the ball contributes, but our defense has been key to our success.” -- Centennial Jeiel Stark said during media day.

As the Coyotes prepare for their fifth straight title game in a row, they face a familiar foe in a rematch from last season as Centennial faces Scottsdale Notre Dame Prep Dec. 1 at Arizona State University Sun Devil Stadium.
Both teams enter this season title game undefeated as they did last year when Centennial defeated Notre Dame Prep 42-21 in the 5A Championship game. The Coyotes enter as the No. 1 ranked team in 5A, sixth in Arizona, while Notre Dame Prep comes in as the No. 5 team in 5A and No. 11 in the state.
Notre Dame Prep had 30 seniors graduate from last season’s 5A runner-up, but came in with a more complete team that has been looking for a re-match all season.
“They are a phenomenal team and we will have our hands full,” Notre Dame Prep senior running back Jake Smith said during media day. “But we have been looking to this all season and we want revenge. Hopefully, this year will be a closer game and we can come out with a win.”
Smith led the Saints with 1,070 receiving yards and 22 touchdowns while adding 741 rushing yards and 15 rushing touchdowns. Junior running back Dominick Mastro led the team with 1,553 rushing yard and 13 touchdowns while senior quarterback Jake Farrell passed for 3,230 yards and 41 touchdowns with only seven interceptions.
“We had to work harder this year and we really gelled as a team,” Smith said. “Last year we were one of the most talked about teams and this year we had to find ways to win under the bridge. (Head coach George Prelock) took a different approach and he really got us to work harder and play more together as a team.”
Smith said a huge key to the Saints’ run has been the development of Farrell.
“Watching him develop from last year has been amazing and he has made tremendous strides,” Smith said. “We have been doing great things and we really are on the same page and I am excited about the title game and what we can do together.”
The Coyotes have taken a different approach on the season, having been a top team since day one, and as they prepare for this season’s title game they had a different leader each week.
The Coyotes defense has allowed 78 points through 13 games, for an average of six points per game while Notre Dame offense has scored 557 points in 13 games to average 42.8 points per game.
Something has to give when the two collide and senior Jeiel Stark knows their defense is key to the game.
“We have a team full of guys who really try to get the ball around to everyone who can contribute,” Stark said during media day. “We bring something different to the table and each side of the ball contributes, but our defense has been key to our success.”
Centennial has allowed 10 or more points only three times this season, once in the regular season in the season opener to Queen Creek Casteel in a 42-19 victory. After that, the defense scored five shutouts and 29 points to finish the regular season.
In the playoffs, they allowed 19 to Phoenix Sunnyslope in the first round; seven to Vail Cienega in the quarterfinals and 13 to Gilbert Higley in the semifinals. Of course, in the closest of those games was the 48-13 semifinal victory over Higley.
“They play like a bunch of dogs and get after it every game,” Stark said. “They play well together and they really prepare for every opponent like it is the first game of the season.”
Defensively, the Coyotes are led by senior Connor Knudsen who has 18.5 sacks and senior Leandre Harris who has 11 sacks. Eleven other players have a sack for the Coyotes defense with senior Marquis Walker with eight, junior Xavier Garcia with six and junior Eric Cire Fields with five.
Ten players have an interception for the defense led by junior Jaydin Young with three and seniors Fields, Dylan Wampler, and Tawee Walker with two each.
Offensively, the Coyotes have been led by junior quarterback Jonathan Morris who passed for 2,041 yards and 21 touchdowns with only four interceptions. Walker rushed for 868 yards and 17 touchdowns while Stark added 505 rushing yards and eight touchdowns. Junior Jaydin Young rushed for 550 yards and 13 touchdowns and A.J. Jackson (451 receiving yards, six touchdowns), Eric Haney (433 yards, four touchdowns) and Dyelan Miller (310 yards, 6 touchdowns) each had more than 300 receiving yards.
As they try to win their fourth championship in the past five seasons, Stark knows the team is focused and ready for a battle.
“Being humble is our team’s greatest attribute as our coaches tell us all the time to take every game seriously and respect each opponent,” Stark said. “We know (Notre Dame Prep) is looking for revenge from last year and we are ready for a battle because last year was a real fight and very physical and we expect the same.”

 

For fans attending the game at 12:30 p.m., Dec. 1 at ASU Sun Devil Stadium, ASU has a clear bag policy and fans can only bring in clear bags — the only ones allowed inside Sun Devil Stadium. Also, the Arizona Interscholastic Association will be holding a “Kick it to Win it” contest during the 5A and 6A championship games for fans during halftime sponsored by Lerner & Rowe. A fan who successfully kicks a 40-yard field goal will win a cash prize. For more information on the contest, visit http://www.azpreps365.com/contest.

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