To be sure, the Centerville football season is a rousing work in progress. The offense is performing at the highest level. The defense has a lights-out demeanor. Its special teams are difference-makers.
And the Elks have done that under the guidance of Brent Ullery. This is essentially a break-in season for him because it’s his first as a high school head coach.
This also is a level of play most of these Elks have never experienced before. And they upped it several impressive notches with a rare 39-22 Week 6 win at rival Wayne on Friday night.
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“This means a lot, especially after last year, not having the season that we wanted,” said Centerville senior defensive tackle standout Jevon Henderson. “Being able to turn it around this year and come out with a great group of guys and go 6-0, hopefully, we can keep it going.”
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Centerville (6-0) has separated itself from the rest of the Greater Western Ohio Conference National East Division. And they’ve done it the hard way, winning four of six games on the road. That’s includes a Week 4 win at Springfield.
There still is a divisional gauntlet awaiting in Weeks 7-10 for all five National East teams. But Centerville can check off one more sore topic on its to-do list, beat Wayne.
That’s something no other GWOC team has done since the 2014 season. Ironically, Centerville won 19-14 in Week 10 that season to complete a 10-0 regular season.
“It’s fitting that it’s them that breaks that string,” Wayne coach Jay Minton said.
This rivalry is annually the area’s best big-school matchup and didn’t disappoint. Despite 480 yards in offense, Wayne (4-2) imploded with five costly turnovers. There were two interceptions and two lost fumbles. Most damaging was a blocked field goal attempt by Centerville’s Riley Poulton that Ross Garrett returned 61 yards for a third-quarter Elks score.
Wayne kicker Garrett Russell had made four field goals this season and that mid-range boot would have given Wayne the lead. Instead, Centerville stunned the partisan crowd, then secured the win on Donnie Shelton’s 24-yard touchdown run, his second score. That clincher was set up on another Wayne fumble near the goal line.
“I’ve never beaten Wayne in my career,” Shelton said. “It’s just a great feeling. It was a crazy experience. I just ran as fast as I could.”
Poulton also had a first-quarter interception and returned it to Wayne’s 3 that lead to Ross Harmon’s score and 14-0 lead.
Centerville quarterback Alec Grandin completed 17 of 27 passes for 240 yards and no picks. Shelton had eight catches for 146 yards that included a 24-yard scoring strike from Grandin. Jake Spiewak also had a 20-yard TD reception from Grandin.
Wayne QB Rashad McKee was magnificent, completing 25 of 38 passes for a career-high 381 yards and three touchdowns. He also rushed for 72 yards. Steve Victoria had 10 catches for 77 yards for the Warriors and L’Christian “Blue” Smith had five catches for 163 yards, including an 83-yarder that went for a score.
But the turnovers were too much for Wayne to overcome.
“(McKee) did get loose and that’s what he’s going to do,” Ullery said. “It doesn’t matter who you are. He’s a really talented player. He’s well coached and he plays hard and is very athletic. We were able to hold him in just enough.”
Centerville will secure its top spot in the Division I, Region 3 computer rankings, but the GWOC National East’s grip on the top eight teams is slipping as the teams play each other. Hilliard Bradley, Pickerington North and Pickerington Central all have surpassed Wayne, Springfield (5-1) and Beavercreek (5-1). Only the top eight teams after the regular season advance to the playoffs.
“We just made too many mistakes in a big game like that,” Minton said. “Whoever gets hot and plays good down the stretch as usual will benefit the most. All those (playoff) points are out there to get.”