While 2020 continues to be an unusual year, there is some normalcy for Centerville and Wayne this week.
The Elks and Warriors are set to play a late-season rivalry game with a lot on the line, but Week 7 this season also happens to be the first week of the playoffs.
The rivals will square off Friday in a Division I, Region 2 opener at Wayne. Divisions I, II, III and VII will play on Friday nights. Divisions II, III and IV will play Saturdays.
“Both teams are usually competing for a conference title,” said Centerville coach Brent Ullery who suited up himself for the Elks in the early 2000s. "We usually play towards the end of the season, which goes into making it a rivalry, and I think from top to bottom the programs including varsity all the way down to the peewees there’s a lot of good coaching and a lot of good players.
“It’s a rivalry when you hear about our fourth graders going over to Huber Heights to play, too, so it’s kind of ingrained at an early age this is a big rivalry, and I think that comes from the fact that no one has established themselves they’re going to be walked over or that they’re going to walk over you every time,” Ullery said.
This edition will be a rematch of a Week 3 Wayne win.
The Warriors trailed 23-14 entering the fourth quarter and were down 23-21 when they got the ball at their own 2-yard line with 2:38 left.
Quarterback Cam Fancher needed 12 plays to drive Wayne for the winning score, a 35-yard rainbow pass Bryan Kinley came down with in the end zone with 14 seconds left.
That 28-23 triumph for Wayne sent the programs in different directions.
The Warriors won four in a row before falling in the final seconds 28-27 at Northmont last week, a decision that denied Wayne a share of the GWOC championship but confirmed the improvement the program has made in its second season under coach Roosevelt Mukes.
“It’s been a combination of the guys just continuing to work hard, believing, trusting the game plan and just executing,” Mukes said of the winning streak prior to the Northmont game. “I think the biggest difference between this year and last year is just finishing plays and people making plays. Last year we might have been in the same situation and just found ourselves a play or two short. So just seeing their growth and knowing that now people have been stepping up to make plays is very good and exciting for us.”
The loss to Wayne started a three-game losing streak for the Elks, who enter the postseason on a two-game winning streak after trouncing Beavercreek 49-10 and Miamisburg 42-0.
“I think our kids really put some attention towards how they prepared,” Ullery said of the winning streak. “They practiced with a lot of great energy, and it seems like the last few weeks we were really excited at practice and then you see that happen in a game. It’s been cool to see the kids buy in and trust each other.”
Credit: David Jablonski
Credit: David Jablonski
While his offense entered the season with established playmakers in quarterback Chase Harrison and receiver Will Jackson-Linkhart, Ullery praised running back Bryant Callahan and receiver Cameron Smith for stepping up as the season has worn on.
Defensively, he credited senior defensive end Kris Artis for becoming a disruptive force.
“We have more guys who can compete at a high level now,” Ullery said. “We’re not so one-dimensional. We have a lot of guys we can trust with the ball in their hands and we have a lot of guys on defense in different places to do different jobs so our guys have done a really good job developing across the whole team and we’ve added depth. We can plug a guy in and he’s gonna perform.”
Ullery called Wayne a much-improved football team since the first meeting between the rivals.
That starts with Fancher, the junior signal-caller who is fourth in the GWOC with 1,012 passing yards and third in the league in rushing yards with 428.
“Fancher is exponentially better, and he kind of makes the whole thing go,” Ullery said. “Besides the fact he’s the quarterback, he’s a threat with the ball in his hands. He’s a threat to throw the ball. He’s a threat to throw the ball on the run. He’s a pretty complete package. He’s pretty dangerous.”
Wayne and Centerville have played every year since 1966, and this will be the third time meeting in the playoffs.
Both of the previous postseason meetings were thrillers won by the Warriors. In 2005, they topped Centerville 29-28 at Paul Brown Stadium, and five years later Braxton Miller engineered a 36-33 overtime victory at Welcome Stadium.
Centerville leads the all-time series 34-30-1.
The teams have split the last four meetings.
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