Judging from his mood after a 14-7 loss to Atholton yesterday, Centennial football coach Ed Holshue may never alter another game plan that's working.
Behind an effective running attack, Centennial held a 7-0 second-quarter lead and was looking for more after an interception gave the Eagles the ball at the Raiders' 40.
But Holshue and staff changed directions, calling for three straight passes from quarterback Brian Dowling, all of which fell incomplete.
"That's when we lost the football game," Holshue said. "It was when I made a bad decision to pass the football instead of run it. They couldn't stop us running the ball at that point. We got greedy and it cost us the game."
Feeling a momentum swing, the visiting Raiders began clicking. They crafted a 74-yard drive, scoring on a 4-yard pass from Jason Albert to Tony Stewart's with two seconds left in the half. Wideout Matt Treese caught the game-winning pass from Albert in the third period, lifting Atholton (4-1, 1-1).
Until Atholton's first scoring drive, Centennial's defense had limited the Raiders to only 62 yards. However, they gained 223 yards thereafter in a run-and-shoot offense led by Albert (14 of 26, 251 yards), back Carlando Love (12 carries, game-high 97 yards) and Treese (six catches, 90 yards).
Atholton's offensive line also drew praise as Adam Martiny, Eric Kaye, Kevin Gottsman and Melvin Enderes consistently moved the Eagles off the ball.
"Early, I felt they dominated the line of scrimmage," Atholton coach Don Van Deusen said, "but on that last drive [at end of first half] we did a better job at the line. The whole success of our offense is based on the line. Jason had a lot of time to let receivers make their routes and make his decision who to throw to."
After both teams had been held on fourth down deep in opponents' territory, Centennial (3-2, 1-1) opened the scoring with an 86-yard, 10-play drive.
The Eagles ran on all but one play, mixing the chores among Dowling and backs Don Culbreath (13 carries, 80 yards), Thearon McQueen and Robbie Hauff. In the only completion, Hauff's shoe-string, 18-yard catch provided a first down at Atholton's 12. Two plays later, Culbreath ran 4 yards up the middle for a touchdown. Mark Noble's conversion made it 7-0 4:13 before halftime.
Centennial appeared primed for another scoring march after James Miller's interception two plays later. But Dowling couldn't find a receiver in three plays and the Eagles punted.
Starting on their own 26 and driving into the wind, the Raiders scored in 11 plays, with Albert completing seven passes for 70 yards. On second down from the 4, he split two defenders and hit Stewart for the score. Chris Buscher missed the conversion, but Holshue sensed a major letdown even though his team still led, 7-6, at halftime.
"We were mentally out of the game at that point," Holshue said. "We had lost all our momentum when they scored and we no longer played with intensity. Games can turn just like that."