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Two-minute Warning

Centurions hold their own with tough opponent – until late in game

Posted: October 10, 2008 10:23 p.m.
Updated: December 12, 2008 5:00 a.m.

Saugus linebacker Mario Lara, top left, tries to chase down Crespi quarterback Bryan Bennett, during first quarter action at College of the Canyons.

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On Friday night, Saugus welcomed one of the Southern Section's perennial powerhouses to town as the Crespi Celts invaded Cougars Stadium on the campus of College of the Canyons.

For the Centurions, a loss could cause their season to spiral out of control while a win could get the season back on track - a Foothill League championship still within reach.

Unfortunately for Saugus, the visitors were too much to handle.

Despite another standout performance from senior quarterback Desi Rodriguez, who threw for 205 yards and a touchdown combined with 59 on the ground, the highly touted defense of the men in brown kept the home team in check, winning 37-14.

"Disappointed," said Centurions head coach Jason Bornn. "I thought we executed well, but it wasn't enough."

Close for much of the game, Crepsi scored two touchdowns in the final two minutes to put the game away for good.

Running back Ryan Zirbel, usually a driving force for the Centurions was held to a mere 36 yards but was able to score a touchdown.

Saugus wide receiver Manny Padron had an enormous night, racking up 135 yards receiving and a touchdown.

Usually focused on the ground attack, the Centurions balanced out the offense and found great success in throwing the football.

Unfortunately, it was not enough.

Crespi struck first on a five-play drive that concluded with a 51-yard strike from Celts junior quarterback Bryan Bennett to wide receiver Blake Stanton who took the screen pass and blasted past the Saugus defense to pay dirt.

Few people would have predicted that this would be the final scoring play of the half as the two teams' defenses stood firm.

Bennett finished with 185 yards passing and a touchdown while Stanton tallied 116 yards and a score.

Saugus had their best chance to score late in the second quarter, but Rodriguez who led his team on a 17-play drive was sacked by Crespi defensive end, Reginald Coates, turning the ball over on downs.

For a team that gave up 52 points the week before, Saugus came up with crucial plays in the secondary from Rodriguez and Padron.

Zirbel and junior lineman Melqui Lemus both made key plays in before the break, getting to the quarterback. Lemus helped keep the running game in check when he hit Celts running back Rhasheed Johnson behind the line of scrimmage on a statue of liberty play.

Giving up five touchdown plays of 67 yards or more to Notre Dame in their last game, the Centurions were able to prevent giving up the big play on defense in the first half.

However, Crespi wasted little time getting to work offensively following the intermission. On the first play of the third quarter, Bennett took ball and weaved 80 yards through Saugus defenders for the touchdown.

After giving the ball back to the Celts on a fumble, the Centurions had to come up big once again, holding the visitors to three points on a goal line stand. The play of defensive back Kollin Depew surging in on Bennett was a critical part of the drive, nearly sacking the Crespi quarterback on consecutive plays from the 9-yard line.

Saugus responded on their next drive.

With the Celts defense crashing down around him, Rodriguez sidestepped, scrambled toward the Crespi sideline and heaved the ball 52 yards through the air to an outstretched Padron, advancing the ball to the 3-yard line.

Two plays later, Zirbel took the ball around the outside and into the end zone, finally getting the home team on the board.

Crespi answered in kind.

Following an injury to Depew, Celts running back Brad Lattanzio punched the ball in for an 8-yard touchdown.

The combination of Rodriguez to Padron brought the Centurions to within ten when the two connected from 11 yards out. Again, it was the passing and general balance of the offense that kept the visitors on their heels.

The Celts would put the ball in twice more on touchdowns from running backs Jeremiah McKibbins from one yard out and Johnson on a 37-yard sprint.

Having gone 0-3 in their last three games, the Centurions will battle Hart in the league opener next week at College of the Canyons.

What remains to be seen is how Saugus will respond as they finish the preseason with a 2-3 record.

"I don't care if we go 5-0 in preseason," Bornn added. "We are focused on a Foothill League championship. We play these games to prepare us for league."

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