Centralia coach Jim Newsted told his players at halftime they needed to come into the second half with no doubt.

After Mexico made a defensive stop in the red zone during the second quarter and followed with a touchdown that proved to be the only points for either side before the break, Newsted knew his team would need to play differently in the second half to come from behind.

“I told the kids this is a playoff-type game, and we’re gonna treat it like a playoff game,” Newsted said. “If we’re in a playoff game, if we (come) out flat, our season’s over.”

While the Panthers didn’t exactly play differently in the second half — the offense didn’t run any different plays on its game-winning drive — they did outplay the Bulldogs. Centralia, ranked No. 5 in Class 2, pulled out a 13-10 win to beat Class 3 Mexico for the first time since 2011.

Even better, it was homecoming night, and the win kept the Panthers perfect on the season at 6-0.

“Any win at homecoming feels great against a good team,” Newsted said. “Mexico’s a great team. It does feel nice to finally get over that hump.”

The Panthers also faced an in-game hump, not scoring until the 1:02 mark of the third quarter when Beau Gordon found the end zone on a 3-yard touchdown run.

Every time Centralia had reached the red zone before that, it was met by a dominant Mexico defense. Junior defensive back Ty Prince forced a turnover on downs that set up the Bulldogs’ first touchdown, which he ran in from 3 yards out. Early in the third quarter, Mexico (2-4) forced and recovered a fumble.

Once Gordon found the end zone for Centralia, though, the momentum shifted.

“I just think it was a story of two halves,” Mexico coach Steve Haag said. “First half I thought we played well, took on their running game and gave that back to them. In the second half I just don’t think we responded well to them coming at us.”

Senior Jake Freidel stood out for Centralia in all phases of the game. At defensive back, Freidel recorded four solo tackles, including one for loss. At running back, he rushed for 89 yards on 14 carries. And on special teams, the kicker nailed 1-of-2 extra-point attempts.

Freidel, usually a backup to junior running back Luke Hunter, scored what turned out to be the game-clinching touchdown in the fourth quarter, somersaulting into the end zone to give the Panthers their first lead of the night.

The play came just minutes after Mexico kicker Gage Gilmore put the Bulldogs ahead by three with a 20-yard field goal.

“Jake’s a phenomenal athlete,” Newsted said of Freidel. “He’s done well for us. He can run the ball. He can catch the ball. We knew what we had with him.”

Trevor Bodine led Centralia with 11 tackles on the night, including two for loss. Gordon and AJ Hombs each made eight stops, while Alex Arends posted a sack and Mike Donaldson came down with an interception.

Gordon recorded 71 yards rushing for the Panthers, while Grafton Lattrell added 31 yards on the ground in the winning cause.

Penalties plagued both teams throughout the game, although Haag said his team seemed to get the short end of the stick.

“Kind of a little lopsided there,” Haag said. “Nothing you can do there. They officiate the game and you just gotta go with it.”

Newsted said he thought the penalties were just a result of two good teams playing a tough game.

“Usually when you get teams running the ball against each other a lot, you’re gonna get some holding calls and stuff like that,” Newsted said. “I was a little concerned with our jumping offsides, though. That’s 100% on us.”

Mexico will travel to Kirksville next week, while Centralia plays at South Shelby.