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Fourth-quarter TD and all-important PAT enables Burleson Centennial to hold off Justin Northwest, 28-27

Spartans defeat Texans in a rematch of a similar-scoring playoff game a season ago
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By Cody Thorn

JUSTIN - Phillip Hamilton vividly recalls a playoff game two years ago, and that provided the motivation he needed Saturday. 

The Burleson Centennial senior quarterback ran for 232 yards in a 28-27 win against Justin Northwest at Northwest ISD Stadium in a game pushed back a day due to weather issues.

Playing a day after originally planned brought back memories of a 42-35 loss to Azle in 2020, when the game was also pushed back a day.

“I'm actually proud of our team for that,” Hamilton said of the come-from-behind win on Saturday. “My sophomore year, we're supposed to play in a Friday playoff game and it ended up being on a Saturday and we just came out flat. So, I'm actually proud of us for coming out and being able to play on a Saturday.

"I told the guys before the game this is a playoff-like game and this is a playoff-game atmosphere Saturday game. Waking up early in the morning, having to eat a sausage biscuit, getting on the bus and playing at one o'clock. It's a lot different from being at school all day and playing at night time; so it's different and I'm proud of us for overcoming that.”

The victory locked up the No. 2 seed for the Spartans in the 3-5A Division I playoffs, improving to 8-1 and 6-1. It is the ninth straight trip to the playoffs.

Last year, the two teams met in the playoffs and the Spartans won, 28-21. This game was as competitive and featured a 14-0 start by Northwest and a rally by Centennial.

Northwest (6-3, 5-2) scored twice in the first quarter to take command early. Jake Strong threw a 27-yard pass to Kenan Reil for a score and Kyle Cummings scored the first of his two touchdowns late in the first quarter.

The Texans gave up two scores in the second quarter and nearly lost the lead late in the first half. Jehiem Ababio scored on a 4-yard run at the 9:21 mark in the second quarter, and then Elijah Zeh added a 2-yard scoring run with 1:49 left for the Spartans.

Centennial missed a field goal at the buzzer to end the first half that could’ve given them the lead.

“One thing I just say about our team, they're tough,” Spartans coach Kyle Geller said. “That sometimes does it.”

One of Hamilton’s rare miscues in the game came early when linebacker Bodie Holden jumped a route and ran back an interception 17 yards for a Northwest touchdown.

Hamilton, who holds three Division I offers, answered by leading the Spartans on two scoring drives, and punctuated the day with an eight-minute drive that ran out the clock and kept the Texans on the sidelines in the fourth.

“That's our style, protect the ball and run hard and that’s what we did,” Hamilton said. “It lets me know we can do it. We can lock in and run everything that we want to run and we can run it successfully.

"There’s never a play where we have to panic, as long as we stick together and do what we’ve been coached to do. I think we can run whatever we want.”

After falling behind on the pick-six, Hamilton helped forge a tie. His 40-yard run on a fake handoff moved the ball into Northwest territory, and then he had a 23-yard pass to Ababio down to the 2-yard line.

Zeh’s second touchdown, from 2 yards out, followed at 6:13 in the third.

Tied at 21, Northwest took the lead for the final time on a 28-yard run by Cummings on a fourth-and-2 situation, where they ran a "heavy" package and Cummings got the direct snap. The extra point was missed wide left - which turned out to be the game-deciding play.

On the first play from scrimmage after falling behind 27-21, Hamilton ran 68 yards and was tackled at the 7-yard line.

Three plays later, Aidan Hicks’ 4-yard run tied it. Truitt Bosher’s PAT broke the tie for the final time with 11:09 remaining.

Northwest punted the ball to Centennial with 7:55 left and the ball never changed hands. On a fourth-and-1 from their own 34, the Spartans converted on a keeper by Hamilton.

Then facing a third-and-2 from the 45, Hamilton got 5 yards on a carry and drew a 15-yard personal foul call on top of that. The game was iced when Hicks converted a 3-yard run on third-and-3 from the 18-yard line with 2:21 left, causing Northwest to call its final time out.

On the next play, he ran 11 yards down to the 4-yard line. That led to a series of kneel downs to end the game.

“Northwest fought their butts off,” Geller said. “I have great respect for Coach (Bill) Poe. And you know, we're just fortunate to get out of here; it was a really hard-fought win.”

Centennial will host Azle (3-6, 3-4) in a game on Nov. 4, while Northwest travels to Denton Ryan. The winner will be the third seed in the district.