The Central Park Hills Varsity Football team kicked off their season exactly the way they had hoped, by crushing Poplar Bluff. The Rebels won their home opener against the Mules in emphatic fashion, routing their opposition 29-7.
The end result was a dominant victory, but the start for both teams was slow, as it was a punt fest in quarter one, with neither team scoring. The Park Hills offense was stopped on blocking miscues a few times which stifled their attempts early. However, at 6:44 of the second quarter, quarterback Casen Murphy connected with Caden Casey from 11 yards out to break the scoring drought. Mason Williams added the extra point to give the Rebels a 7-0 lead.
Poplar Bluff started the second half with the ball, but the Park Hills defense came through and shut them down, forcing a three-and-out. On the punt attempt, Triston Stewart cracked the line and blocked the kick. Williams scooped and scored the second touchdown of the game. He then added his own extra point, extending the Rebel lead to 14, with 10:04 still on the clock in period three.
The defense shut down Poplar Bluff again as the Rebels earned the ball back. They quickly handed it off on a sneaky play to stud receiver Jobe Bryant, who busted one up the middle for a massive 68-yard gain. With 6:09 left in the third, Murphy hit Bryant with a 16-yard strike to finish the drive. Williams tagged on the point after, making it a 21-0 game.
In the fourth quarter, the Mules finally got on the board with a 36-yard rushing touchdown cutting the lead back to 14 points with the score at 21-7, and making it a game once again.
However, it didn’t take the Rebels long to answer. A little luck helped Park Hills out in their next drive. Wanting to run some clock, they couldn’t get much going on the ground, and after two unsuccessful plays leading to a third and eight, Murphy’s pass got tipped at the line, forcing Kannon Harlow to stop his out route and come back to catch it. When he did, the defender was driving to where the original throw was headed, so Harlow was able to make him miss. He turned on the burners and outran the entire Poplar Bluff secondary for a 75-yard touchdown.
After the big play, a mishandled PAT snap caused the “fire” route to be called which allowed Ty Schweiss to hit Hakin Wagner for an impressive 2-point conversion, making it a 29-7 score. With the game in hand, the Rebels were able to deploy a crop of defensive substitutes and give some young guys valuable minutes of game action. And they handled themselves exquisitely, fending off the Mules for the remainder of the game.
According to Head Coach Kory Schweiss, the team played well but made a lot of mistakes. He said, “All in all, we played well defensively, but made a ton of miscues on offense. There is a lot of improving to do, but that may be a good sign. We were able to beat a talented class five opponent and we still have a ton of growing room. The experience in this game alone should help our inexperienced players greatly. The expectation is to be a lot better next week.”
Murphy was the offensive catalyst in this one. From former receiver to converted QB, filling the shoes of the great Jett Bridges, he handled himself quite nicely in the pocket in this one, going 17-of-25 for 202 yards and three scores. He also was responsible for the majority of the ground game with four rushes for 57 yards. Williams added 25 yards on three carries, but was more known for his boot on PATs and his scoop and score special teams touchdown. Bryant was the main receiving target with nine completions for 60 yards and a TD, but Harlow had five catches for 96 yards to lead the team, not to mention the biggest play of the day on his 75-yard score.
Defensively, Stewart was the stand-out performer with eight solo tackles. Sammy Callaway and Schweiss each added six tackles and one sack a piece, but the entire defensive unit was spot on in this one against a very tough Poplar Bluff squad who is two classes higher than Central.
Despite graduating 18 Seniors last year and some incredible talent, this new crop of players has some very big shoes to fill, but it looks like this year’s team is gelling well. Coach Schweiss spoke to the motivation of this 2022 squad, saying, “I think our guys in our program understand the expectation so it doesn’t really matter how many we graduate, we still expect to win games. I think our guys take pride in carrying on the tradition that their former rebels, especially their former teammates from last year, have established. I also think that they accepted the challenge because all they’ve heard for a year is how Central will be ‘down’ this year.”
Looks like it’s so far, so good. Next up for the Rebels is another home game next Friday, September 2nd, against John Burroughs. The Bombers are sitting at 0-1 having just lost to Althoff Catholic 28-10. Park Hills has a lot of work to do to smooth out the rough edges, but so far, they have handled their business well and will look to keep the ball rolling next week.