Who needs to deal with Cody Kessler when you can play a Royal flush?
At least that was the case for Centennial High on Friday night, when the ninth-seeded Golden Hawks rolled behind Brice Royal's 411 yards rushing and six touchdowns in a 63-49 victory against No. 8 Clovis West in a Central Section Division I first-round playoff game at Lamonica Stadium.
"That's awesome," Royal said when informed of his numbers. "The most touchdowns I've ever scored in a game in my life was three. It was enjoyable. It was something special."
Never miss a local story.
Kessler passed for 2,831 yards and 36 touchdowns in an All-State 2010 season before departing for USC.
But against the Golden Eagles, Centennial also received 237 yards passing and three touchdowns from senior Joe Bresson while compiling 663 total yards against the D-I defending champions.
The battering left Clovis West coach Mike Parsons in a daze.
"I didn't think we ...," he began to say at midfield before turning to look at the scoreboard.
He didn't complete the thought before pausing, then saying, "I've got to go back to work and find out how to do it. It's tough to come back from a Valley championship."
The Eagles, starting seven sophomores, finished 3-8 after going 12-1 a year ago. But they had some fun before they checked out this season – at least Ian Hall, who passed for 435 yards and six touchdowns, and Ryan Clark, who caught 12 passes for 271 yards and four scores.
Centennial, meanwhile, is but 6-4 after a 10-2 season in 2010 that ended with a 37-20 semifinal loss to fellow Southwest Yosemite League member Bakersfield. And they'll get another shot at the top-seeded Drillers (10-0) in next Friday's quarterfinals.
But the Hawks, who also lost 31-0 to Bakersfield last month in a game Royal missed with a knee injury, will have to do so minus coach Bryan Nixon.
He was ejected in the third quarter following two sideline unsportsmanlike conduct penalties. And the ejection draws with it an automatic one-game suspension. Nixon can appeal.
Centennial took a 35-28 halftime lead while outgaining Clovis West 379-240.
The Eagles tied it at 28-28 on Taylor Bustamante's 9-yard run with 48.7 seconds to go in the half before their biggest mistake – pooching the subsequent kickoff.
The Hawks marched 48 yards in 40 seconds, taking a 35-28 lead on Bresson's 10-yard touchdown pass to Michael Martens toward the left edge of the end zone.
Bresson, who was 4 of 16 last year while otherwise admiring Kessler from the sideline, was 16 of 24 for 185 yards and three scores in the first half.