CENTRAL FOOTBALL: Crater rallies for win to eliminate Panthers

CENTRAL POINT — The Central football team pushed Crater to the brink before falling 24-21 in the quarterfinals of the 5A state playoffs on Friday.

“Going down and playing the No. 2 ranked team in 5A and having to take that road trip presents challenges,” Central coach Shane Hedrick said. “I thought we played a great game. They never quit, and battled and battled and battled, and took it right down to the last few minutes of the game. I couldn’t be any prouder of the players and coaches and the community who supported us.”

Quarterback Peter Mendazona threw for 306 yards and two touchdowns, both of which went to Peter Mason, who had 200 receiving yards. The game was close throughout, with Crater grabbing its first lead with 3:20 left in the game.

The Comets held on for the victory to advance to the 5A semifinals.

The Panthers (7-4 overall) ended the season with several standout performers, including running back Alvin Berroa, who ran for 1,606 yards and 15 touchdowns. Paving the way on the offensive line were two unsung heroes, Hedrick said.

“Xavier Morales and Gabe Arreguin were the two smallest offensive linemen in the conference. They never got any ink in the paper because they weren’t what we would call ballers, but they showed up in the trenches and worked hard every single day,” Hedrick said.

Central will see many core players returning, including Mendazona, Mason, defensive lineman Marlon Tuipulotu, but returning to the state playoffs won’t be an easy task.

“Experience is always good,” Hedrick said. “The biggest thing they’re going to have to do is we had some great senior players who are leaders on and off the field. The younger kids learned from that leadership. Until you become a leader, it’s hard to be one without experience. Coming back, they have a tremendous amount of work to do to get back to this level that we were at.”

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