FRANKLIN – Centennial’s playmaking duo of Desmond Smith and Kevin Townsel combined for four touchdowns to lift the Cougars (1-1) to a 37-24 victory against the visiting Smyrna Bulldogs (0-2) in their home opener Friday night.
After a disappointing start to their season against Ravenwood the week before, a fast start and strong finish helped the Cougars pick up their first win of the season.
“Last week we feel like we started out timid, but we came out on fire tonight,” Townsel said. “We feel like everyone is sleeping on us and we feel like we have something to prove.”
Smith did his damage out of the backfield early in the game, rushing for 198 yards on 22 carries and two touchdowns—including an 86-yard rushing score late in the first quarter to help give the Cougars an early 14-0 lead.
“Desmond is a grinder,” Cougars coach Matt Kriesky said. “When it looks like he might be going down, the next thing you know he’s breaking free for a big run. He had a great night tonight.”
And when the Cougars were looking for a spark in the second half with Smyrna mounting a comeback, it was Townsel who swooped in and provided the jolt Centennial desperately needed.
Moments after Smyrna’s Emerson Combs took the second half kickoff and ran it back 95 yards to bring the Bulldogs within a failed two-point conversion of tying the game, Townsel struck right back with an 89-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to swing the momentum back in Centennial’s favor.
In the fourth quarter, Townsel did some more damage—this time on defense—intercepting a pass by Smyrna quarterback Tavien Tigg and dashing 45 yards and into the end zone with 2:59 remaining in the game to shut down any hope of another comeback effort for the Bulldogs.
“Kevin’s hardly ever coming out of the game,” Kriesky said. “He’s out there everywhere for us—on offense, defense and special teams—and came up with that huge interception that sealed the game for us.”
After falling behind 17-0 early in the fourth quarter, Smyrna’s offense started to click and surged on offense behind the running back tandem of Jamir Eaton and Zereoue Johnson, who helped the Bulldogs string together 15 unanswered points to close the gap.
But four turnovers and inconsistent play proved to be the Bulldogs’ undoing as Smyrna faded down the stretch.
“We’re a young team, but we’re making too many mistakes and turnovers,” Smyrna coach Matt Williams said. “We have to get better at the fundamentals. We played well in spurts, but we have to put four quarters together.”
Still, Eaton’s strong performance—138 rushing yards and a touchdown on 20 carries—provides a sign of hope for the Bulldogs moving forward.
“He’s a dynamic athlete,” Williams said of Eaton. “He was bound to break out at some point and tonight was the night. Hopefully that continues for us.”
Centennial will square off with regional rival Independence on the road Friday, Sept. 6, while Smyrna will look for their first win of the season at John Overton.