ROSWELL, Ga. — Centennial opened its season Friday night with a heartbreaking loss to Wheeler at home with the Wildcats sealing their 42-38 win with a long touchdown pass with just 10 seconds remaining. The offensive shootout featured six lead changes, including three in the final five minutes, nearly 1,000 combined offensive yards and 80 points.
“I’m really proud of the effort,” Perry said. “It was a roller coaster with the lead changing constantly, but they fought the entire game. We just made way too many mistakes on both sides of the ball.”
Those mistakes included five turnovers, three touchdowns called back on penalties, and missed opportunities, including a dropped interception on Wheeler’s final drive.
The first major mistake from Centennial allowed Wheeler to tie the game at 7-7 late in the first quarter when a Max Brosmer interception was returned for a touchdown.
The teams exchanged blows until late in the second quarter when Wheeler scored two touchdowns in the final two minutes to open a 26-14 lead. Centennial kicker Nicky Solomon hit a field goal just before the half to cut the lead to 26-17.
The Knights opened the third quarter with a touchdown and reclaimed the lead with a rushing score from Emeka Nwanze. A failed two-point conversion put the score at 30-26.
Wheeler hit a field goal midway through the fourth to pull within one before a flurry of scoring in the final minutes.
A 72-yard touchdown pass from Wheeler led to another lead change with just over four minutes remaining.
Centennial’s Nwanze again found the end zone on the ground to put Centennial up 38-35 with 1:35 remaining.
The Knights had two chances to put the game away in the final drive, but a dropped interception and a long third down conversion from Wheeler set up the game winning play. Wheeler quarterback Landon Bradley connected with Reikan Donaldson for a 31-yard touchdown pass with 10 seconds left to seal the thrilling Wildcat win.
“I think I died 1,000 deaths during that game,” Perry said. “I know we have a team that is going to learn from this. We’re going to fix some issues and get right back at it next week.”
Perry said his offense had a lot of first game jitters, compounded by many new starters, and though the defense did well against Wheeler’s option, they struggled to get off the field on third down.
Centennial will hope to keep those mistakes and nerves to a minimum this week as the team takes on 7A opponent South Forsyth (2-0).
“We have a tremendous opponent in South,” Perry said. “We will have our hands full, but we’ll get after it and give it everything we have.”