After a season of leaning heavily on quarterback Connor Zulk to carry the offense, Centennial opted to spread the wealth Friday. The Cougars showcased a deep and talented group of backs and a smallish but fast and physical offensive line in a 41-14 rout of Stillwater in the first round of the Class 6A playoffs.
Senior Noah Larson rushed nine times for 137 yards and scored two touchdowns — one rushing, one receiving — to pace Centennial (7-2) to its fifth consecutive victory.
"They took Connor out of it and we saw that," Centennial coach Mike Diggins said. "Going into the game we thought we could do some things. And we didn't even do some of the things we wanted to."
What the Cougars did do was plenty. With Zulk running the read-option offense with aplomb, the rushing attack picked up yards in huge chunks. Centennial scored the first four times it had ball in the first half on drives of seven, five, five and four plays and finished the game with almost 400 yards on the ground.
Zulk scored the first two touchdowns on runs of 2 and 11 yards as Centennial built a 14-0 lead early in the second quarter.
Stillwater cut the deficit in half on quarterback Casey Venske's 45-yard scoring pass to fullback Nick Schendler. But any momentum the Ponies built dissipated quickly. Centennial marched smartly downfield on the ensuing possession and regained its two-touchdown lead on Larson's 29-yard run.
Fullback Austin Wlaschin's 1-yard touchdown run made the score 28-7 at halftime. The Cougars came out after the break and cemented the outcome with a nine-play, 81-yard drive that ended with Zulk's 21-yard touchdown pass to Larson. That made the score 35-7, quashing any lingering doubts.
"It was amazing," Larson said. "Seeing everybody get involved in a section game like that was unreal. Our line is playing with a crazy attitude. They come into every game, knowing they can dominate."