CENTRAL — Central’s opening salvo proved to be enough to stave off Live Oak’s closing kick.
Quarterback Sam Kenerson accounted for four touchdowns during a dazzling first-half display, but while Central’s offense failed to score in the second half, the Wildcats chewed up enough of the clock in the final quarter to cement a 31-22 District 4-5A victory Friday at Wildcat Stadium.
“I like where we’re headed,” Central coach Sid Edwards said. “Sam’s a difference maker. He can be pretty special.”
Central (3-3, 2-1 in 4-5A) roared out to a 21-0 first-quarter lead and increased that to 31-7 at halftime — on the arm and legs of Kenerson, who passed for two touchdowns and ran for two more. Tyler Melton also added a 36-yard field goal.
Kenerson had 273 total yards and four TDs, completing 8 of 17 passes for 186 yards with both TDs going to Destin Franklin (5-60).
“Going into this week we talked about how we were going to show people our passing game,” Kenerson said. “Nobody thought we could pass the ball and we showed them that we can.”
Live Oak (3-3, 0-3) scored twice within the first two minutes of the third quarter on a pair of touchdown runs from quarterback Sal Palermo (8-101, 3 TDs), pulling the Eagles to within 31-22 after scoring runs of 45 and 1 yard.
“You’ve to be able to start fast and we’re not doing that,” Live Oak coach Brett Beard said. “We’ve got to figure out a way to get these kids going quicker.”
Central’s defense only allowed a 36-yard field goal to Nathan Holliday with 4:22 remaining to be played, but it was the Wildcats’ offense that took more than nine minutes off the clock on two of their final three drives to put the game away.
Following Sid Ridgell’s recovery of an onside kick after Holliday’s field goal, Central registered four first downs and ran out the remaining 4:22 in the game.
The Wildcats, who played most of the game without starting running backs Quint Guerin and Parker Evans, were outgained 118-25 in the second half.
“Our kids withheld the surge,” Edwards said. “It’s a nightmare to be up 31-7 and they score twice in like 30 seconds, but we survived it and the defense stepped up.”
Kenerson had a hand in all three of Central’s first-quarter touchdowns, piling up 177 yards of total offense in a 21-0 lead with just over two minutes left.
Outside of the opening drive that covered 80 yards on six plays with Kenerson connecting with Franklin on the first of two touchdowns, Central needed three plays to score its other two touchdowns.
Kenerson followed up his 55-yarder to Franklin with a shovel pass that Lederrick Thomas turned into a 56-yard score at the 6:32 mark.
Kenerson added a knifing 10-yard score near the end of the opening quarter and his dazzling first half with a 24-yard TD pass to Franklin on fourth-and-6.
“It was fun,” Kenerson said. “I loved it.”