CENTRAL — Central is returning to the Class 5A state playoffs at home next week riding the play of a red-hot defense.

The Wildcats forced four turnovers, including three interceptions that led to three touchdowns, and quarterback Jonathan Swift passed for a pair of touchdowns in a convincing 35-3 District 4-5A victory Friday over Live Oak at Wildcat Stadium.

Central (7-1, 3-1) extended its win streak to three games and will host a first-round opponent in next week’s Class 5A state playoffs.

Swift completed 11 of 20 passes for 211 yards with a pair of touchdowns to wide receivers Calvin Collier and Malik Hilliard. He also rushed 11 times for 40 yards, helping the Wildcats outgain the Eagles 319-18.

Live Oak (5-3, 2-2) had its three-game win streak snapped and will begin its playoff run on the road.

How it was won

Central built a 14-0 halftime lead, striking quick for a touchdown within the first minute of the game before adding a long-distance scoring pass midway through the second quarter.

Defensive back Russell Chinn set up the Wildcats first score with a 55-yard interception return to Live Oak’s 3-yard line on the second play of the game. 

Pierce Patterson, who had a team-high 52 yards on 11 carries, scored the first of his two touchdowns, a 3-yard run on the first play after Chinn’s interception and Logan Brown added the first of five successful extra points.

Central made it 14-0 on its biggest offensive play of the half. Swift caught Live Oak in a blitz and connected with Collier (2-78, TD) on a post pattern over the middle of the field — a play that covered 75 yards for a touchdown at the 8:40 mark of the second quarter.

Central scored twice in the third quarter for a 28-0 lead on Patterson’s 14-yard run two plays after Gage Evans’ interception and Swift and Wildcats capped their longest scoring drive of 10 plays, converting Caleb Ward’s interception into a 7-yard TD pass from Swift to Hilliard (4-25, TD).

Players of the game

Central’s defense

Central’s defense forced four turnovers with interceptions from Russell Chinn, Gage Evans and Caleb Ward that pushed the team’s total to 13 for the season.

The Wildcats limited the Eagles to 18 yards of total offense on 38 plays, including minus-30 rushing on 23 attempts. They registered 16 plays that went for either zero or negative yards.

Live Oak didn’t register its initial first down in the game until there was 2:20 left in the third quarter on a 39-yard completion from quarterback Brock Magee to Cade Getwood.

They said it

Central coach Sid Edwards: “Defensive coordinator) Ken Hilton and those defensive coaches had them ready and they were on fire tonight. It was about the defense. I’m proud of the whole team but the game ball goes to Hilton and that group. That was about as good as we played all year on defense. Our entire defensive unit was light’s out.” 

Live Oak coach Blaine Westmoreland: “We’ve got to do a better job of matching physicality. We know what type of team coach Edwards has. We started the game by throwing a pick on the second play and that was an uncharacteristic thing for us. We did some other uncharacteristic things that put us behind the eight ball. This is the most physical team we’ve played — them and Zachary. And we’ve got to do a better job as coaches of getting these guys prepared.”

Notable

  • Live Oak avoided a shutout with 5:04 to play on Landon Ratcliff’s 31-yard field goal after the Eagles tackled Central punter Tyler Melton for a 19-yard loss after a low snap.
  • Live Oak’s offense, which had scored 30-plus points three times this season, was averaging 24.2 points. Running back Daylen Lee was the Eagles top rusher with 9 yards on six carries.
  • Central’s defense limited its fourth opponent this year to a touchdown or less.