JOHNS CREEK, Ga. — Just three games into its season, Centennial had already suffered two heartbreaking losses.
Against Wheeler in the season opener, they led by three in the final minutes, but Wheeler would score with 10 seconds left for the win. Then against Alpharetta last week, Centennial led by 14 entering the fourth quarter, only to see their lead squandered and the Raiders win on a field goal as time expired.
But on Friday night, Centennial reversed its fortunes and wound up on the winning end of another thrilling game, this time against Johns Creek.
Trailing 17-7 in the fourth quarter, Centennial fought back for the lead, and eventual win, with two unanswered touchdowns to earn their first win of the season (1-3, 1-1).
“The past couple of weeks have been heartbreaking,” Centennial head coach Michael Perry said. “But we knew good things were going to happen and we knew eventually we would be on the right side of things.”
“I’m super proud of the kids and the coaches,” Perry said. “The kids showed a lot of heart. They faced so much adversity early on and I’m proud of how they responded.”
The response came in the fourth after Johns Creek opened the quarter with a touchdown pass to go ahead 17-7.
The Knights’ ensuing drive was capped off with a Julian Nixon touchdown rush three minutes later to bring Centennial within one score.
After forcing a Johns Creek punt, the Knights converted a fourth-and-1 on their way to a touchdown pass from Max Brosmer to Blane Mason. The score put Centennial on top, 21-17, with just under four minutes remaining.
Johns Creek’s offense, which accumulated over 400 yards in the game, drove to the Knight’s 31-yard line but faced a fourth-and-1 with under a minute to go. With the game on the line, the Gladiators’ shotgun snap sailed over the head of Williams who was tackled all the way back in Johns Creek territory.
The Knights then ran out the clock for Perry’s first win as a head coach.
“It was great night,” Perry said. “I think a lot of people really cut loose and enjoyed themselves after the win.”
Perry said receiver Blane Mason had an outstanding game, and he was pleased with his defense’s performance.
The Knights’ defense did allow over 400 yards from Johns Creek (1-3, 1-1), 375 coming thanks to QB Zach Gibson.
“We’re moving the ball which is encouraging,” Johns Creek head coach Matt Helmerich said. “We have a lot of playmakers but we’re not getting the touchdown or first downs when we need it.”
“We had another game where we have more total yards and didn’t pull out the victory,” he said.
Helmerich was pleased in his defense’s performance that held Centennial’s fast-tempo, air-raid offense to just three scores.
“We lined up and played hard on defense,” he said. “We just missed a few players here and there.”
Even with the loss, Helmerich said he has seen improvement each week.
“When we get better, we are going to be a really good team,” he said.
The game was the inaugural Johns Creek Veterans Memorial.
Centennial plays again on the road against Cambridge (0-4, 0-2) this week while Johns Creek will travel to play Northview (0-3, 0-1).