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Efficient start powers Central past Dexter

PARK HILLS – The Central football team secured home-field advantage for Class 3, District 1 play while closing in on a potential undefeated season on Friday night.

The Rebels tallied three unanswered scores with few mistakes to begin the contest, and rode the energy to a 36-20 victory against visiting Dexter.

Central quarterback Jace Bland had an exceptional start, completing each of his four passes for 130 yards and two touchdowns in the first half.

Senior defensive lineman Holden Mayberry highlighted the early effort with a 79-yard interception return for a touchdown to take a 22-0 lead with 9:31 left in the second quarter.

Will Hopkins was the first to reach the end zone for Central (8-0) by taking a short pass 66 yards with 7:38 to play in the first.

Tyreece Welch received a quick pass near the line of scrimmage three minutes later, and followed excellent blocking for a 33-yard touchdown.

Welch notched 80 receiving yards and 72 on the ground. Bland ended 7-for-10 with 187 passing yards, and ran for 55 more.

Dexter (4-4) attempted to pound the ball up the middle with running back Caleb Hoggard on its first two drives, but eventually punt each time. Hoggard finished with 126 yards plus a touchdown on 26 carries.

The Bearcats turned to more of a passing approach, but had limited success. Quarterback Ben Sindle finished 7-of-15 with 60 yards.

Dexter created its first scoring drive by handing the ball to Corbin Strong late in the second quarter. He toted seven carries for 35 yards and finished the push with a 7-yard touchdown up the middle to bring the score within 22-8 after a two-point conversion.

The Rebels continued to excel through the air nearing halftime. Welch corralled a 20-yard grab, and Will Hopkins brought them within the red zone with a 10-yard catch.

Jake Glenn capped off the drive with a 1-yard dive for a 29-8 edge with 39 seconds remaining before the break.

Central came out of halftime with a heavy ground attack between Glenn and Bland, but caught the opposing defense off guard with a 27-yard pass to Welch down to the opposing 2.

Evan Sidebottom had the touchdown on the following play for a 36-8 advantage with 7:15 remaining in the third.

The Rebels later forced the first turnover on downs by stopping Strong on a fourth-and-1 rushing attempt.

Bland threw his first incomplete pass of the game on the ensuing offensive drive, which Dexter eventually stopped on fourth down from midfield.

Jett Featherson led the Bearcats with six tackles, while Braxton Foster and Strong each had four.

Glenn paced all players with eight tackles while Hopkins posted six for Central. Tanner Friend recorded a lone sack early in the fourth quarter.

The Dexter defense stopped backup quarterback Dylan Corcoran four yards from scoring on fourth down in the final period. Then the offense proceeded to cover 96 yards on five carries between Strong and Hoggard.

Strong brought the score to 36-14 on a 10-yard dash up the middle with 1:23 to play. Hoggard scored on a 5-yard run after the Bearcats forced a fumble with one minute remaining.

Tanner Smith posted 45 rushing yards for Central, which travels to Sikeston next week.

Central quarterback Jace Bland (4) sheds a tackle by Dexter defensive back Nate Gargas (12) on a keeper during the fourth quarter on Friday night.

Central quarterback Jace Bland (4) sheds a tackle by Dexter defensive back Nate Gargas (12) on a keeper during the fourth quarter on Friday night.

Central junior Tanner Friend (58) jumps up after recording a sack against Dexter quarterback Ben Sindle to force a fourth down during the fourth quarter on Friday night.

Central junior Tanner Friend (58) jumps up after recording a sack against Dexter quarterback Ben Sindle to force a fourth down during the fourth quarter on Friday night.

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