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When Anthony Wayne s Ben Barrett booted a 29-yard field midway through the fourth quarter, Central s crowd sat in silence at Gallagher Stadium.
The scoreboard read 10-7 in the Generals favor with little more than six minutes left in the game.
Opportunity for panic to infiltrate Central s sideline certainly existed considering the Irish had not shown any consistency offensively up to that point.
Yet, the Irish met the challenge head-on and put together their best-sustained drive of the night with their next possession.
Central drove 50 yards on seven plays with Michael Marrow capping the drive with a one-yard game-deciding touchdown run that led to a 21-10 come-from-behind victory over the Generals.
Central defensive back Tyler Bell iced the game when he intercepted a desperation pass by AW backup quarterback Trevor Smith in the waning seconds and returned it 51 yards for a touchdown.
The final score certainly wasn t indicative of how close the Generals (2-1) had the Irish (3-0) struggling on the ropes.
We were outplayed and outcoached tonight, Central coach Greg Dempsey admitted.
We were fortunate to make some plays in the fourth quarter.
The Irish coach also thought his team deserved some credit for finishing the game on top.
They played with a lot of effort, Dempsey said. I knew they [the Generals] would come out and be ready to play.
AW coach Craig Smith said his team didn t make enough plays down the stretch in a game in which the Generals produced 19 first downs compared to nine for the Irish.
We think we controlled the game for the most part, Smith said. Unfortunately we didn t come out with the win.
AW running backs James Pollex and David Birsen epitomized the Generals effort against the Irish. Pollex led all rushers after carrying the football 18 times for 106 yards, including an eight-yard touchdown run that tied the score at 7 with 4:12 left in the second quarter. Birsen had 17 carries for 91 yards.
Marrow finished the night leading the Irish in rushing with 87 yards on 20 carries, including the game-deciding touchdown run late in the fourth quarter. But the 6-foot-1, 240-pounder, worked for every yard against a Generals defense that consistently tried to swarm to him whenever he was handed the football.
I think they came prepared, Marrow said. They were coming at all angles. They were blitzing more than we could block.
Down the stretch the Irish defense, led by Jake Henderson, Kevin Williams and Jamaal Tarrent, held strong and kept the Generals out of the end zone.
It was difficult at first trying to figure out who was carrying the ball, said Tarrent, of AW s running game. We stepped it up at the end. All we had to do was get used to their offense.
And Bell put the finishing touches on the Generals with his interception.
I just saw the ball in the air and I had to take it, said Bell, recalling his game-securing interception. Usually we just get it and go out of bounds but I saw it [the field] was open and had to take it back.
Central made it look like it was going to be an easy time against AW when it scored on its first play from scrimmage in the opening quarter.
Eric Bates, who received the second handoff on a double-reverse, surprised the Generals when he fired a pass out of Central s end zone to a wide-open Nate Hobbs, who finished off the play for a 97-yard touchdown to give Central a 7-0 lead.
But that quick touchdown may have been the last time the Irish had it easy against the Generals the rest of the night.
Contact Donald Emmons at:email@example.com 419-724-6302.