The Centennial football team's historic season came to an end Nov. 8 with a 70-28 loss at Jackson in the first round of the Division III, Region 11 playoffs.
It was the first playoff appearance for the Stars, who finished 9-2 overall.
"We just ran into a really good team," said coach Donte Goosby, who completed his seventh season. "They were just a better team than we were, more physical than we were and more determined than we were."
Centennial's playoff berth followed its first City League-North Division title. The Stars went 6-0 in the league, beating Beechcroft (28-7 on Oct. 4) and Northland (33-7 on Oct. 25) for the first time in program history along the way.
"When we punched someone, they didn't punch back," Goosby said. "When we punched Jackson, they punched back ... and they kept punching."
Senior Luchene Davis ran for 107 yards and a touchdown, junior Jaylen Gilbert was 11-for-23 passing for 185 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions and junior C.J. Dean caught four passes for 84 yards and a score.
But after the sixth-seeded Stars had tied the game at 14, the third-seeded Ironmen ran off four consecutive touchdowns to take control. Jayden Spires carried 20 times for 225 yards and two touchdowns, and Brice Graham added 104 yards and three touchdowns on eight carries.
"They were better than us, but not 70 points to 28 points better," Goosby said. "At certain points of the game, we came unhinged and started making uncharacteristic mistakes.
"Part of that is that when you play a good team and you're forced to play at their level, you're going to make mistakes because it's a level that you're not familiar with. But we were just not poised. We just did not handle the adversity as well as I would have liked."
Centennial's success was accomplished with just 25 players on its roster. Davis led a group of four seniors, finishing with 1,260 yards rushing and 24 touchdowns on 148 carries and adding 13 catches for 238 yards and five scores.
The Stars also lose top lineman Seth Arrowood and defensive end Kelvin Gilliam, who had 42.5 tackles, 11 tackles for loss and three sacks.
"For the most part, the core of our team remains intact," Goosby said. "So we have an opportunity to be in the same position next year. We just have to make sure that we respond from December to August."
Many of the top players were juniors. Gilbert, who missed four games because of injury, threw for 812 yards with nine touchdowns and four interceptions while completing 38 of 81 passes. He added 320 yards rushing and eight touchdowns on 61 carries.
"This season, we had a lot of hype and we're looking forward to a lot of hype next season," Gilbert said. "But we can't let that get to us. Now that our season is over, we can rest for about two weeks and then get back into the weight room. We just got to start now because that's what all the other schools do."
Junior Justin Grimes (OL/DL) had 64 tackles, 23 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks to lead the defense.
Other juniors expected to return are Dejwar Ali (OL/LB/K), C.J. Dean (WR/LB), Tyreek Gunnell (SB/DB), Noah Hatem (OT/DE), Kevin Motley (OL/LB), Tavarres Overton (WR/DB) and Marquise Scott (SB/DB). Sophomore Blake Bennett (QB/LB) also is expected to return.
"We told the guys that this was not the end," Goosby said. "We had a really good season -- a historic season. That's what we're going to focus on."