One of the smallest players in the state sparked a mammoth upset in the opening round of the Class 5A playoffs.
At 5-feet-8 and 150 pounds, Central High sophomore wide receiver Gary Triplett provided the biggest plays in the Wildcats’ 35-28 triumph last Friday over top-ranked St. Paul’s-Covington.
“The old saying that dynamite comes in small packages certainly applies to Gary,” said CHS coach Doug Dotson. “He’s had some pretty big games this year, but none as big as this one. He just went off and showed what he’s capable of.”
Triplett hauled in seven catches for 202 yards and three first-half touchdowns to lead the Wildcats past the previously unbeaten Wolves. He also intercepted a pass with 35 seconds remaining to ensure the win.
Triplett commanded extra attention from the defense in the second half and opened more throwing lanes for junior quarterback Brett Courville, who finished 18-for-28 passing for 347 yards.
“If you’ve got one guy like Gary that garners so much respect from the defense that they keep two defenders on him, it’s certainly going to open up other things,” Dotson said.
“And Brett did a good job spreading it around after Gary’s impact in the first half.”
But two or even three defenders may not always be enough to contain Triplett, who anchored Central’s state runner-up 4x100 relay team as a freshman. Triplett also recorded a 10.8 in the 100-meter dash in his first year of varsity competition. This season, he’s averaged nearly 20 yards per reception.
“A lot of people say they run a 4.3 (40-yard dash), but Gary runs a legitimate 4.3,” Dotson said. “Every time he touches the ball, the crowd takes a deep breath because he can go the distance on any play.
“He’s a track guy and a football guy. He’s got great speed and tremendous vision and movement on the football field. A lot of people think most track guys are straight-ahead runners, but he can take it in any direction.”
But the Wildcats’ big-play ability was negated by critical miscues during the team’s 2-4. CHS rallied with four straight wins and earned a share of the District 4-5A title to enter the playoffs despite finishing 33rd in the regular season power rankings.
“At 2-4, a lot of teams will pack it in and turn a deaf ear to what the coaches are saying, but our kids saw the plan we had and they believed in each other,” Dotson said.
The Wildcats can now earn their third trip to the state quarterfinals in four years when they host Ruston (7-4) on Friday at 7 p.m.
The game plan that’s carried CHS to five straight wins isn’t likely to change, Dotson said.
“Our game plan always going in is to get Gary as many touches as we can. We’ve got to be aggressive with our play calling and our game plan because Ruston isn’t going to come in here and lay down for us.”