With one head-jarring tackle, Corona Centennial, ranked third in the Southland by The Times, took control of its nonleague game Friday night against fourth-ranked Encino Crespi at Pierce College.
Kenneth Anderson slammed into Crespi punt returner Austin Shanks just as he fielded the ball with about four minutes left. Shanks’ fumble was recovered by Centennial’s K.J. Vaifale inside the Crespi 20-yard line.
Ryan Bass followed with the second of his three touchdown runs in the final quarter, securing a 41-20 victory.
Bass finished with 200 yards and four touchdowns in 39 carries against the Celts, who had given up only six points in their previous two games.
“If he would have raised his hand, I would have stopped,” Anderson said of his hit on Shanks. “I’ve made a hit like that in practice, but I never thought that would happen in a game.”
Crespi (2-1) did not earn a first down on its first three drives and sophomore quarterback Bryan Bennett’s pass was intercepted on the fourth.
Centennial quarterback Matt Scott threw an interception on the Huskies’ opening drive, and they were stopped on downs at the Crespi four-yard line on their second possession.
However, Crespi players were whistled for piling on Bass after stopping him on third down, resulting in a new series of downs. Four plays later, Scott scored on a two-yard keeper, but the conversion kick was wide, leaving the score at 6-0.
Crespi’s offense finally picked up momentum and 6-foot-7 tight end Joseph Fauria made a key 26-yard reception on fourth and long at the Centennial 28. E.J. Woods followed with a two-yard touchdown run and the conversion kick was good, giving the Celts a 7-6 haltime lead.
Centennial (3-0) took the second-half kickoff and marched 67 yards in 10 plays, taking a 14-7 lead on a 19-yard touchdown pass from Scott to a wide-open Nick Beasley and a two-point run by Bass.
After stopping the Celts on their opening drive of the second half, Centennial strung together another long drive, converting two fourth downs in the process, to take a 20-7 lead; however, Crespi returned the ensuing kickoff 85 yards for a touchdown, cutting the deficit to 20-14.
Bass then fumbled on the opening play of the next drive and Bennett quickly connected with Fauria on an eight-yard touchdown pass. This time it was Crespi that missed the point after, leaving the score tied, 20-20.