The notion that the Central High football team might struggle in the Tri-River Athletic Conference because of the talent it lost from a year ago was erased Thursday.
Central, No. 1 in The Bee’s Central Section rankings, defeated No. 2 Buchanan 41-20 in a TRAC opener at Veterans Memorial Stadium despite the return of Bears star running back Kendall Milton.
“We kind of knew what we had to do to win the game and that’s what we expect to do,” Central coach Kyle Biggs said. “We just find ways to win.”
The Grizzlies extended their streak in TRAC play to 17 straight wins
Central fell behind 20-6 early in the second quarter but charged back thanks to Xavier Worthy’s 19-yard run and Jekob Jones’ 4-yard run to tie the game at 20 at halftime.
The teams traded punts to open the third quarter before the Grizzlies (6-0, 1-0) capitalized on a Buchanan (3-3, 0-1) turnover and pulled away.
Central’s Sean Haymon intercepted a pass by Buchanan backup quarterback Ian Kirby and returned it 52 yards for the go-ahead touchdown with 3:55 left in the third quarter.
Nicknamed “Money Green,” Haymon said he believes he’s the best cornerback “in the Valley.”
His teammates agree.
“They said, ‘Oh, yeah, Money Green got a pick-6 and they should never throw his way and they should know better,’” Haymon said. “Now they know better.
“Put a stamp on it.”
Kirby replaced Buchanan starting quarterback D.J. Stevenson in the first quarter after the first-stringer suffered a shoulder injury on a rushing touchdown. Stevenson continued to play before he was eventually replaced by Kirby.
Milton, the five-star recruit who’s committed to Georgia, returned Thursday after missing three games because of a quad injury. He finished with 16 carries for 89 yards and two touchdowns.
But it was Central’s Jameson Silva who silenced any doubters if he could come in and replace former star quarterback Trent Tompkins. He did his part in the win, completing 20 of 25 for 269 yards and two touchdowns, including a 79-yarder to Quali Conley in the fourth quarter.
“This is the biggest stage for me this far in the season,” Silva said. “I wanted to prove to the Valley I’m for real. I’m here to stay and we pretty much hushed all the haters questioning us saying we have a weak preseason.
“We just beat the second-best team in the Valley. Big statement game for us.”