Friday night, in Cookeville, Tennessee, the Central Bobcats showed everyone exactly what happens when you underestimate them. Central’s football team faced off against Summit High School of Spring Hill in the Class 5A State Championship game. A large crowd of supporters made the drive from Fountain City to Tennessee Tech University to cheer on the defending state champions, as they looked for a repeat of last season’s end.
To begin the game, Central’s group of all senior captains, Dakota Fawver (2), Malik Robinson (6), Jason Merritts (11), and Zach Ridner (76), met referees and Summit’s captains at the 50 yard-line for the coin toss. Summit won the toss and opted to kick off.
From the start, the Bobcats showed off their aggressive offense with multiple drives coming close to scoring. But none were successful until a little under five minutes were left in the first quarter. Senior wide receiver Isaiah Osborne (18) caught a 12 yard pass from quarterback Dakota Fawver (2). Osborne then ran into the end zone for a touchdown. The extra point was made by junior kicker Jared Swislowski. Central left the first quarter up 7-0.
The second quarter saw lots of action offensively with multiple successful drives, two ending in touchdowns and one with a field goal. The first came as the Bobcats were
knocking on the door of the end zone again. The snap was handed off to running back Jason Merritts (11) who then pushed through the final 5 yards to score. The second happened after a huge 40 yard pass by Fawver to senior wide receiver Braden Gaston (7). Gaston evaded multiple Summit defenders before getting a foot into the end zone close to the sideline. Both extra points were made by Swislowski.
As time ran out in the first half, Central thought they’d see another touchdown as the clock approached zero. But after falling short trying to gain yardage, they opted for a field goal attempt by Swislowski. The kick was good and put three more points on the board for Central. As the team left the field for halftime they were up 24-0.
Not only was the Bobcats’ offense on a roll, but their defense was proving to be almost impenetrable. In the first half they allowed only 14 yards passing and 6 first downs (Central had 15), and picked off two interceptions.
After halftime, both teams came out hard and fast. Central attempting to grow their lead and Summit attempting to comeback. Summit scored off their first drive shrinking the Bobcats’ lead to 24-7.
The score will remain the same through the end of the third quarter with Central still fighting hard. The fourth quarter resulted in one more Bobcat touchdown by Merritts who rushed 8 yards to the house, giving the Bobcats 6 more points. The extra point was blocked by Summit making the score 30-7.
Central winded down the clock and began to celebrate with a minute or so remaining. When the clock hits zero for the final time, Central’s end of the stadium erupts. They’d done it again. The Central High School Bobcats were back to back state champions.
Quarterback Fawver was named the game’s MVP. He threw for 216 yards and 2 TDs.
They had been overlooked, disrespected, and underestimated. They fought through a two game losing streak at the end of the regular season, an obnoxious opposing student section, and biased announcers and commentators to do what no one but Bobcat Nation thought they could do.
Friday’s win says a lot more this year, one year is impressive, gets you noticed. But two years in a row, from a program that’s been overlooked and belittled for years, it says: don’t ignore us. Don’t count us out. And never disrespect us.
It’s hard to imagine anyone could underestimate Central after their successes the past
two years, however it’ll be sure to happen again. But the Bobcats and coach Rosser will just have to prove them wrong all over again.
The team left Tucker Stadium in a furry of celebration as everyone began the trip back to Fountain City. With the golden ball trophy in tow, the team made it back to Central where students and families were waiting to congratulate and celebrate the players and coaches.
They’re the pride of Fountain City and serve as the light of a bright future for Central High School. And Coach Rosser and the Bobcats don’t plan on slowing down anytime soon.
All pictures by Ella Wilds
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