WOODBINE — Dereik Crosby’s nerves tested him just before kickoff of Friday night’s football game between Century and Manchester Valley.
The Knights senior stood parallel to his team’s end zone and waited for the ball to come to him, hoping he’d get a chance for a solid return on the game’s first play. Moments later, Crosby was at the other end of the field celebrating with his teammates.
An 86-yard kickoff return for a touchdown gave Century quite the start, and the Knights wore down Man Valley’s defense just enough down the stretch for a 12-0 victory at Western Regional Park.
Century pitched its first shutout since Week 9 of the 2018 season, and needed a little time to get its offense going after Crosby’s opening kickoff maneuvers.
“I was a little bit nervous, you know, working hard in the offseason,” Crosby said. “I caught that thing, man, the blocking was great. I cut it back in, and I was going.”
Crosby darted up the middle of the field, found a few holes and raced back toward Century’s side of the turf. The Knights had the point-after kick blocked but grabbed the early lead.
Man Valley moved the ball well from there but couldn’t keep from being blanked. The Mavericks got down to the Knights’ 1-yard line on their first possession before being stopped on fourth down. They had another red zone trip late in the game that ended in a turnover.
Century junior running back Erik Harrell broke loose for a long fourth-quarter touchdown run to preserve the win.
Harrell, Crosby, and senior Landon Bruce commanded Century’s ground game, and they’re all back this season after enjoying success in 2019.
Bruce (6-foot, 188 pounds) was second in Carroll County with 1,125 rushing yards, and he added 11 touchdowns. Crosby (5-9, 180) ran for 673 yards and seven TDs, and Harrell (5-8, 193) totaled 331 rushing yards and a touchdown.
Bruce lines up as Century’s quarterback at times and gives coach Todd Edmondson one-third of what the Knights hope is a three-headed monster on offense. Crosby uses his agility to break away from defenders, and Harrell can break tackles to churn out extra yards.
“I know it helps our [offensive] line, that’s for sure,” Edmondson said about his trio of runners. “They’re great kids, great leaders. To have those guys back, it’s huge. … They love the game.”
Manchester Valley’s offense is led by senior quarterback Owen Murphy and senior running back Jackson Boothby, with juniors Matt Rollman and Will Sinnott anchoring the line. Senior receiver/defensive back Zach Bowen and junior lineman Jack Mueller are also players to watch this season.
The Mavericks are coming off a playoff-bound 2019 campaign ― they beat Hammond in their Class 3A East opener, played in a region final, and finished 6-5 under coach Bernie Koontz.
Meanwhile, Century made a 2A West playoff appearance last season and finished 6-4. Edmondson graduated three key contributors from that team that are playing in college now, but he’s got some talent back in 2021.
Crosby is committed to Fairmont State in West Virginia. Bruce is one of two backs in Carroll who rushed for more than 1,000 yards a season ago, and he had 70 tackles on defense to boot.
“That’s the focus offensively, is to make sure we get all three guys involved,” Edmondson said. “We’ve got to clean up some things, because everybody knows we’re going to run.”