With just four seniors departing from this season's roster, Centennial High School football coach Donte Goosby is excited about the future of his program.
"We had a small senior class, but they gave us good leadership and good play on the field and they helped encourage our younger guys," Goosby said. "I'm very excited with the guys coming back. We have our entire offensive and defensive line back and most of the productivity from our skill-position players.
"Next year should be fun now that the young guys have learned the ropes, learned the plays and gained some experience."
The Stars finished 4-6 overall after beating their biggest rival, Whetstone, 23-20 in the season finale Oct. 27. They went 3-3 in the City League-North Division, finishing behind tri-champions Beech-croft, Mifflin and Northland (all 5-1) and ahead of Whetstone (2-4), East (1-5) and Linden-McKinley (0-6).
Centennial loses seniors Craig Burt (WR), Chris Darlington (K), Nigel Harris (CB) and Parker Johnson (RB). Burt had 29 receptions for 857 yards and 11 touchdowns and was named first-team all-league, and Harris was second-team all-league.
"Burt has been a great leader for us," Goosby said. "He was our quarterback last year when we needed him but moved back to receiver, which is his natural position."
Freshman Jaylen Gilbert took over at quarterback and was 80-for-144 passing for 1,307 yards and 21 touchdowns. He also was first-team all-league.
Sophomore running back Luchene Davis rushed for 866 yards and 10 touchdowns on 104 carries and was first-team all-league.
"I was very pleased with the development of the young guys this year," Goosby said. "I was happy with our season, considering our youth. Our guys never quit on each other, we developed a lot of young guys and we had fun along the way.
"Looking forward to next season, we absolutely have to become a tougher team physically. We gave up too many games with the lack of physicality."
Juniors Jamal Erby (LB) and Khari Woods (DL) also were named second-team all-league.
Other expected key returnees include juniors Oscar Espino (OL/DL), Anthony Flood (OL/LB), Lamont Rankin (OL/DL) and Chris Street (WR/DB), sophomores Seth Arrowood (OL) and Xyion Newton (DL) and freshmen Rico Darks (RB/LB), C.J. Dean (WR/DB) and Syquee Womack (WR/DB).
Boys soccer coach sees encouraging signs
It was a season of all or nothing for the boys soccer team.
The Stars finished 7-7-2 overall, losing at fourth-seeded Columbus Academy 2-0 on Oct. 21 in the second round of the Division II district tournament.
All of Centennial's wins were shutouts, and the Stars went scoreless in five of their losses.
"While we had just as many wins as losses, I thought that some of the losses were encouraging," fifth-year coach Scott George said. "We had a very tough schedule and we were competitive in every game, win or loss.
"Our offense could be a little inconsistent. We scored goals in bunches in wins, like an impressive 5-0 win against Jonathan Alder (on Sept. 9), while we were held scoreless in all but two losses. Our defense had seven shutouts, the most of any team I have coached at Centennial."
The Stars were seeded 11th of 27 teams for the postseason and defeated 21st-seeded Caledonia River Valley 7-0 in the first round Oct. 17 at home before losing to an Academy team that won a district championship.
Centennial went 3-2-2 in the City-North to finish fourth behind champion Beechcroft (6-0-1).
The Stars lose seniors Chris Darlington (defender), Anthony Jones (midfielder), Preston Newkirk (defender), Emmanuel Ochieng (forward), DeWayne Scott (midfielder), Jordan Walker (forward), Kitano Wat-kins (defender/midfielder), Luke Zimmerman (defender) and Will Zimmerman (defender).
"The senior class this year is very special to me," George said. "The whole group came in four years ago and immediately began challenging older guys for time. (Five) of them (Darlington, Scott, Watkins and the Zimmermans) are four-year letterwinners, which is pretty unheard of in this program.
"They have always been a positive group, showing up ready to try their best. They have taken to leadership as they've aged, maintaining and improving our team culture and mentoring the younger players. They have been involved in making this team a fun and welcoming environment for all, and I'm sure going to miss their daily presence."
Among the expected returnees are juniors Matthew Bavu (forward), Sean Jacobsen (midfielder), Max Lee (midfielder), Noah Schutte (defender) and Alex Tierney (goalkeeper) and sophomores Matthew Jacobsen (midfielder) and Jeremiah Upchurch (defender).
The Stars learned some lessons by "losing to or having difficulty against some teams that were ordinarily considered safe wins," George said.
"Our outlook for next season is positive," he said. "Given the adversity we experienced this season, a lot of the younger guys learned some valuable lessons and will come out hungry. We will have a lot of contributors returning. We have many valuable pieces, so it's up to the coaching staff to see how we can fit them together.
"I was really impressed with Noah Schutte. Although he wasn't a captain, he really stepped up both in his actions and as a voice on and off of the field. He kept the team on an even keel no matter what was happening in games, as well as getting guys to leave all school drama at the door. I can't wait to see what he can do next fall."