By Max Goodwin
Center has beat every opponent so far this season by at least 30 points. They are undefeated at 5-0 for the school’s best start in six years.
The last time the Yellowjackets started a season this hot was 2016 when Center reached the state quarterfinals against Maryville before losing its only game of the season, finishing 11-1 that year.
Last Friday, Center traveled to Warrensburg for the second conference matchup of the season and immediately quieted a packed crowd with a 28-0 lead after the first quarter. Center starters were resting by the fourth quarter in what ended as a 55-15 win.
Center players say they are focusing on one game at a time, but as the temperature drops and fall weather kicks in, each win also brings the end of the season closer.
“You can feel the air has changed a little bit, kind of crisper,” said Steffon Brown, Associate Head Coach and Defensive Coordinator at Center, as the team loaded onto the bus back to south Kansas City.
“So, we know it’s coming. We tell our seniors, ‘guys, your season is halfway over. We’re only guaranteed 10 games.’”
Last season, Center was 5-4 and ended the season with a loss in the district semifinal round of the state playoffs. Quarterback Joseph Vick watched that game from the sidelines while recovering from a torn ACL.
Vick worked hard over the last year to be ready to play this season. Against Warrensburg, Vick didn’t hesitate to scramble for a first down in the first half on a passing play showing that he’s just as quick after recovering from surgery last year. Against Warrensburg, Vick was 7-for-8 with 172 passing yards and two touchdowns.
Standing on the sidelines during the playoff game last season has motivated Vick for his senior season.
“It hurt me because it felt like I wasn’t there for my team, my guys,” Vick said. “That was one of the main reasons for this season to do it for them, so I don’t have to worry about that feeling that I had last year.”
Last season, Center had only a few seniors on the roster. This season, just on the defensive side there are nine seniors starting. They made play after play at Warrensburg.
On the first drive of the game as Warrensburg had moved the ball down the field to Center’s 30-yard-line and appeared to be threatening to score, senior defensive back Kadarius Williams stripped a receiver and recovered the fumble, returning it to the Warrensburg 41-yard-line for Center to start in great field position.
Senior linebacker Harold Tsafack was a constant presence in the Warrensburg backfield chasing down the quarterback.
Warrensburg is the second opponent Center has faced from its district in Class 4 this season. In the second game of the season, Center beat Lincoln Prep, 42-7. Lincoln was 11-1 last season. Then on Friday, Center went on the road and dealt Warrensburg a 40-point loss, the biggest margin of defeat for the school in three years.
“We expect to play well, we expect to come in with an edge,” Brown said after the Warrensburg game.
Center was moved up, based on school enrollment, to Class 4 from Class 3 of the Missouri State High School Activities Association. It’s a good thing for the school as a whole, meaning the district is growing, but the athletics teams will face larger schools, meaning tougher competition in order to win a state championship.
The Grandview Bulldogs started the season 0-2, but managed to pick up an emotional 56-31 win over Raytown South on senior night. Since then, Grandview has gone on the road and beat Winnetonka, 54-7, and then for the homecoming Grandview hosted Truman, winning 55-0.
Grandview is now 3-2 with a matchup scheduled at Excelsior Springs on Sept. 30 before Ruskin (1-4) visits Grandview on Oct. 7. Grandview is now in the same district as Center (Class 4, District 7) after Center was moved from Class 3 to Class 4 at the start of the school year.