WATSON — Live Oak held a slim three-point lead late in the third quarter against visiting Central on Friday night.
The Eagles were looking to pad their lead, and they were approaching midfield when Central junior defensive back Da’veawn Armstead intercepted a pass intended for Amar Pink.
The play set up Andrew Medine’s 22-yard field goal to tie the score, and Central seized the momentum from there, scoring twice in the final period to claim a 20-10 win in the District 4-5A finale.
With the victory, Central will play host in the first round of the Class 5A nonselect playoffs.
“That was a big play by Da’veawn,” Central coach Sid Edwards said. “They had the lead and we were struggling offensively and we were frustrated. That play really gave us a boost. Da’veawn had a huge game for us tonight.”
Isaiah Rankins led the Wildcats (8-2, 3-2) with 69 yards on the ground, followed closely by sophomore Jonathan Swift’s 57 yards and a touchdown.
Central’s defense played “lights-out,” as Edwards put it, and held the Eagles to just 120 offensive yards on the night. The Eagles (6-4, 1-4) failed to pick up a first down in the second half.
Live Oak coach Brett Beard said Central’s big defensive play turned the momentum in the Wildcats' favor.
“They made the big play when they needed to,” Beard said. “We’re just not finishing our games; it’s as simple as that. We have to win the trenches and get some movement up front.”
Live Oak took at 10-7 advantage into the locker room as Cole Crenshaw nailed a 30-yard field goal with 2 seconds left in the half.
Central jumped out to an early lead, scoring a touchdown on its first possession of the game. Quarterback Sam Kenerson connected with senior wide receiver Andrew Myrick for a 35-yard gain that set up a 1-yard plunge by Kenerson.
Live Oak answered, putting together an 11-play scoring drive. The Wildcats helped keep the drive alive with a personal foul penalty that pushed the ball across midfield. The Wildcats were flagged seven times in the first half alone, including two personal foul infractions on a single play that resulted in a 30-yard loss in the second quarter.
The Eagles faced a fourth-and-1 at Central’s 27-yard line, and Kee Hawkins came through with a 7-yard gain. Rhett Rosevear later ran for 12 yards to set up his 6-yard touchdown carry, tying the score.
Crenshaw’s field goal came after senior defender Darian Ricard intercepted Kenerson at the Wildcat 25. Central’s defense stiffened, however, and kept Live Oak out of the end zone.
Eagles sophomore Aiden Saunders also intercepted Kenerson in the first quarter but the Live Oak offense failed to capitalize on the opportunity.
“This one was won on grit,” Edwards said. “We were just grinding it out, and we found a way to pull it off."