For the first time in Central High football history, the Grizzlies are Valley champs.
It took 87 years – but just two seasons under coach Kyle Biggs – for the Grizzlies to be able to say that.
Quarterback Trent Tompkins and running back Jevon Bigelow each accounted for two touchdowns, Biggs dialed up a gutsy call during a critical stretch, and the Grizzlies defense remained unrelenting all night as top-seeded Central toppled No. 3 Buchanan 29-7 in the Central Section Division I championship Friday night at a packed Koligian Stadium.
“I’m ecstatic for our fans, for our community, for our administrators, for our kids, for our school,” Biggs said. “This is an amazing feeling.”
It was a year ago that Central struggled on the championship stage and lost to Bakersfield – much because of an off night from Tompkins.
The 6-foot, 200-pound junior rose to the challenge Friday while fueling the Grizzlies (12-1) with key scrambles and big throws during pivotal moments.
Among Tompkins’ big plays was a 36-yard strike to Tyrell Grayson for the game’s first score, which also turned out to be the only score of the first half.
“Just goes to show you how good he is,” Buchanan coach Matt Giordano said. “Seemed like we had him. Then he makes a play. It can frustrate a defense.”
The Grizzlies defense, meanwhile, hammered every Bears ballcarrier with their alignments geared to stop Buchanan’s run and daring the Bears to throw downfield.
Buchanan (10-3), known for a vaunted ground attack, was held to just 91 rushing yards. And the Bears passing game couldn’t generate much either while amassing just 128 yards – the majority of those in the final quarter.
Still, the game remained close for the majority of three quarters – until Biggs elected to call a trick play, a double pass that the Grizzlies only installed during one practice in the week before the final.
The Grizzlies executed it perfectly. Tompkins zipped a lateral to Bigelow that for all appearances to Buchanan was setting up as a screen. Instead, Bigelow threw a deep ball to a wide-open Avery Boyd for 44 yards.
On the next play, Bigelow ran in from 12 yards out and placed Central ahead 20-0 after three quarters.
“We noticed their defense was playing the run aggressively and wanted to take a shot downfield,” Biggs said. “We felt confident about that play.”
With the game essentially secured, Central’s fans started the celebration in the fourth before Grizzlies players punctuated it with an ice-water dump on Biggs as the final seconds ticked away.
During the postgame celebration, some players pointed in the stands to acknowledge past teammates in attendance.
They also thanked Justin Garza, the popular former Central coach who died of of cancer earlier this year. A memorial in the stadium honors his memory.
“Best feeling ever,” Tompkins said. “That was for the former players. Coach Garza. Everybody. All that hard work just paying off. It’s just amazing.”
Central, whose only loss came against De La Salle back in September, now advances to a Regional Championship Bowl Game next week – with a possibility of playing for a state championship in two weeks in Sacramento.
Regional Bowl matchups will be announced Sunday.
“We finally got that monkey off our back,” Biggs said, “and we’re excited about what the future holds for us.”