Clovis News: Sports

Centennial High too much for Cougars

Their special teams are special. Their defense may have the Central Section's premier player in linebacker Jared Norris -- and he's surrounded by studs.

Then there's quarterback Cody Kessler, who's long been introduced.

He's the cool, precocious cat who goes 6-foot-2, 219 pounds, is going to USC, averages 30 points a game in hoops and will crush you in ping pong.

This was all on display Friday night at Lamonica Stadium for the top-ranked Centennial Golden Hawks, who manhandled Clovis 36-6 in a nonleague game.

It occurred a year after Centennial lost 42-31 to unbeaten Bullard for the section's Division I title. The Hawks also lost in the D-II final consecutively from 2001-03.

Good luck to the team that stands in the way of the first big one for a school established in 1993.

"The players have a lot of confidence and I think they're building off last year's success," Centennial coach Bryan Nixon said.

Kessler displayed touch, accuracy and arm strength on passes short and long, often eluded defenders, surveyed the field and followed receiver progression while completing 18 of 23 passes for 223 yards and three touchdowns with one interception. He also rushed 13 yards for a score.

And this came one week after he completed 15 of 19 passes for 277 yards and three touchdowns in a 56-21 rout of a Redwood.

"We're just all-around better," he said. "Last year was the closest team I've ever had in my life, and, this year, I already feel that. We hang out together after practice and on the weekends. We do everything together. It's all one family, all one heartbeat."

Clovis, 7-29 coming in since late in 2006 and in its second year under coach Rich Hammond, needed nothing out of the box to happen to have a chance. Yet it did only 6 minutes, 15 seconds into the game when the Hawks' Brodie Scott smothered a punt and Trent Miller returned it 20 yards for a touchdown.

Not 3 minutes later, Kessler jogged untouched from 13 yards for another score, it was 12-0 Centennial and the Cougars never threatened.

Kessler's in-stride 43-yard touchdown completion to Tyler Fries made it 22-0 in the second quarter, and his 78-yarder to Tim Martinez in the third extended the margin to 29-0.

Martinez caught six passes for 107 yards and Shawn Johnson rushed 14 times for 115 for the Hawks, who didn't appear to have a weakness. But Hammond wasn't overwhelmed.

"They have two real good athletes in the linebacker [Norris] and Kessler, they're solid from top to bottom and they played hard -- all that's great," the Clovis coach said. "But, I don't know, I'm used to seeing some teams from the Bay Area and Southern California who have athletes galore.

"Obviously, for our section, [the Hawks] are very good, but I don't think great. I'd like to see them against someone like Central with a lot of team speed and athletes running around."

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