When the Centralia varsity football team knocked Van-Far6 out of the Missouri State High School Athletic Association season ending championship tournament 45-6 at home on Oct. 20, it was the first win this team had enjoyed since claiming a 49-14 decision at South Shelby on Sept. 15.
In between those two victories the Panther's suffered a four-game losing streak that centered around a 35-0 defeat at Palmyra on Sept. 29. Now, put all those elements together and let the cold and wind warp things just slightly and that's the trap Centralia knew it was walking into for the rematch last Friday in the Class 2, District 5, semifinals.
When all that adversity didn't exactly manifest itself the way some thought it might, the end result was an early touchdown by Palmyra followed by a strong defensive compilation for the Panthers that sent the game into halftime at 7-0. That's when the train got rocked from its tracks for Centralia by way of scoring advantages of 10-0 in the third and 7-0 in the fourth for Palmyra that left the visitors on the wrong side of a 24-0 decision.
The initial score of this contest for Palmyra, which ran 36 plays and racked up 226 yards of total offense, came at 9:09 of the first quarter on an 83-yard run by Jacob Kroeger. Once Noah Mencer hit the point after attempt, the Panthers didn't allow another touchdown until 3:17 of the third on a 13-yard burst by Jarom Alexander. Palmyra also sandwiched a 31-yard field goal by Mencer between these trips to the endzone at 5:07 to go up 17-0 heading into the fourth.
The final score featured some very familiar faces playing unfamiliar roles for Palmyra that consisted of Mencer throwing a 10-yard touchdown pass to Kroeger at 10:15. In Centralia's defense, it did run 66 plays in an effort to control its own destiny, but the fact it could only clock 195 total yards of offense ended up being a key element in this game.
Standing at the forefront of this offensive attack for the Panthers was Trey Owens with 16 carries for 61 yards, Clayton Simkins completed 13-of-20 passes for 62 yards and one interception and ran 12 times for 25 yards and Nick Wheaton made five catches for 30 yards. Kaiden Davenport chipped in with five receptions for 24 yards and 10 rushes for 20 yards, Bradley Berry had five carries for 15 yards and Gus Sitdham added a nine-yard catch and a pair of receptions for five yards, as well.
On the other side of this gridiron confrontation for Centralia, 6-5 overall, Caden VanSkike sported a team-high five and-a-half tackles, Davenport and Berry made four and-a-half defensive stops each and Jared Holman and Simkins came though with three and two and a half tackles, respectively.
Wheaton also contributed to the cause with a pair of tackles and an interception, Chris Hicks gave a two-tackle performance and Stidham, Owens, Brett Huffington, Trevor Bodine, Grafton Littrell and Zane Torreryson were good for one defensive stops apiece.
As for the Panthers special teams, even though things didn't go as they normally do, Simkins did punt three times for 101 yards, Owens had a 17-yard kickoff return and Stidham punted once for 24 yards. Litrell also an back a kickoff for 13 yards.
Palmyra, on the other hand, only completed one pass for the entire game and it wasn't by starting quarterback Kroeger, who ran 11 times for 81 yards. Alexander also put up 68 yards on 12 carries and Peyton Plunkett laid down 57 rushing yards on four attempts.
Palmyra, 9-2 overall, next plays on Friday for the district title at home against Clark County, 7-4 overall.