CENTRAL -- After three straight losses to start the season, Central is steadily adding tallies to the win column.
The Wildcats, fresh off a close win over Scotlandville, kept as perfect record in District 4-5A action intact when they stifled visiting Belaire all game long for a 38-0 District 4-5A victory on homecoming night Friday.
Central (2-3, 2-0) picked up its first win last week in a 12-6 slugfest against Scotlandville, which came on the heels of back-to-back-to-back losses against The Dunham School, Dutchtown, and Jesuit, teams that were a combined 10-2 entering Week 5.
There was no sweating out the latest victory — Central pounced on Belaire (1-4, 0-2) with four touchdowns in the first half in collecting its first shutout of the season.
“We've got one of the tougher schedules in the state, so that has prepared us well,” Central coach Sid Edwards said. “We just need to clean up some things and we’ll be alright.”
Making his debut for the Wildcats was freshman quarterback Jonathan Swift, who was called into duty to replace starter Samuel Kenerson, who’s been dealing with a concussion. Swift went 2-for-5 for 32 yards passing, but did most of his damage on the ground, where he picked an additional 89 yards, including 3 on a touchdown run with 16 seconds in the first half.
Edwards liked what he saw from his young starter.
“Jonathan’s gonna be really special,” the coach said. “He’s got a lot to work on, but he’s gonna be special. I was proud of the way he performed.”
This one got away from Belaire early.
After forcing a three-and-out on defense, Central marched down field on a nine-play, 58-yard drive that garnered three first downs, including two third-down conversions. The drive ended when running back Isiah Rankins walked into the end zone on a sweep from 2 yards out to put his team ahead 7-0.
The teams exchanged interceptions on the next two possessions, but the Wildcats got the last laugh when a defender blocked a Belaire punt, leading to a 5-yard scoop-and-score from De’Veawn Armstead, the first of three touchdowns in the quarter for Central.
A fumble by Belaire’s Christ Farley after a 33-yard punt return put the Wildcats in position at the Bengals’ 49-yard line. Six plays later, Rankins found room up the middle on a 12-yard run to push the lead to 21-0 with 3:24 to go before halftime.
But Central wasn’t done scoring in the first half
The Wildcats forced another three-and-out on the next series and took the ball at their own 43-yard line after the punt. From there, Central gobbled up 57 yards in eight plays — including a 22-yard pitch-and-catch between Swift and Juan Banks on third down — before Swift scored to make it 28-0 entering halftime.
Central finished the game with 258 yards of total offense, including 226 on the ground at 5.7 yards per carry.
“The entire running back group did great,” Edwards said. “A lot of people got called into action, and they did a great job.”
Defensively, the Wildcats held the Bengals to 72 yards, most in the fourth quarter when Central inserted its subs. The Wildcats forced five turnovers (two interceptions and three fumbles) and gave up only six first downs the entire game, with just one in the first half.
With a 7 p.m. kickoff on the road against Live Oak, Edwards will try to get his team to clean up the one thing that plagued his squad all night against the Bengals — penalties. The Wildcats finished with 12 penalties for 105 yards.
“I agreed with all the calls,” Edwards said. “So if I had to take something away [from Friday’s game], it’s just cleaning that up. As you go forward, it’ll cost you games.”
CENTRAL 38, BELAIRE 0
Belaire 0 0 0 0 -- 0
Central 7 21 7 3 -- 38
CHS - Isiah Rankins 2-yard run (Kick good)
CHS - De’Veawn Armstead 5-yard fumble return (Kick good)
CHS - Rankins 12-yard run (Kick good)
CHS - Jonathan Swift 3-yard run (Kick good)
CHS - Parker Evans 24-yard run (Kick good)
CHS - Fernando Perez 27-yard field goal
First downs 6 14
Total yards 72 258
Rushes-yards 20-33 39-226
Passing yards 39 32
Passes 4-13-2 2-5-1
Fumbles-lost 5-3 2-0
Punts-average 3-33 1-53
Penalties-yards 11-72 12-105