PHOTO: RB Jariel Wilson runs the ball against Riverdale in fall 2017. / STEVE WHEELER
BY CORY WOODROOF
While the Centennial Cougars didn’t make waves in the playoffs in 2017 after a road loss to Cane Ridge, head coach Matt Kriesky will be hoping his new team can make a further November push in 2018.
While their 4-7 record might not seem like a lot of hang your hat on, the Cougars had a respectable 3-2 district record last fall in the ever-competitive 6A district, which includes heavy-hitters like Ravenwood, Brentwood and Independence.
If you’ll recall, it was Centennial who got a close road win over Ravenwood to open the season last August.
But, to Kriesky, the 2018 Cougars have this to overcome in trying to stake more of a claim over their district, “replacing last year’s key players.”
This includes former quarterback Tre Stewart, who’s now a Wheaton man, and the versatile Tavion Flemming, who joined Birmingham-Southern.
Though, junior QB Grayson Marcel will be handling the passing duties in Stewart’s stead.
Aiding Marcel will be Centennial’s top offensive weapon, senior running back Jariel Wilson.
Wilson is already committed to join Austin Peay in 2019 and will look to build on his 2017 1,068-yard, 17-touchdown season. He averaged eight yards a carry last fall.
Senior wideout Joey Gustafson will also be leaned on to help the Cougars, who run a pro-style spread offense, as will the two tight ends, senior Asharri Haynesworth (son of NFL star Albert) and junior Alex Steele. Junior running back Za Pickens will spell Wilson in the backfield.
On defense, look no further than the anchor of the unit, senior linebacker Sean Hannon. He amassed 126 tackles last season and had five sacks and will be relied on once more to set the tempo for the Cougars.
Also, keep an eye on senior defensive lineman Wiatt Barber to get the guys going up front along with junior Christian Bledsoe. Haynesworth will join Hannon in the LB core, as will Steele and Pickens. Look for sophomore Tucker Tremayne to be a factor at cornerback, as well as on offense.
The Cougars will rely on what Kriesky feels is their team strength, comradery, as they get underway with 2018’s slate.
They will open the season, once again, with Ravenwood, though it’ll be the Raptors traveling this time to Centennial, on Friday, Aug. 17.
Home stands against Independence (Aug. 31) and Summit (Oct. 12) and road bouts with Brentwood (Oct. 26), Hillsboro (Oct. 6) and former playoff foe Cane Ridge (Sept. 7) will be the standouts for the Cougars as they attempt to mount a playoff-ready record and push further into fall play.