POPLAR BLUFF, Mo. – With senior quarterback Casen Murphy recently cleared to resume throwing, the Central football team has its offense fully restored.
Jobe Bryant began his senior season in fitting fashion by finding the end zone on his first touch, and the Rebels defeated Poplar Bluff 34-13 on Friday night.
Central created three turnovers on defense – interceptions by Jaxon Jones, Kannon Harlow and Murphy – without committing any of its own.
Poplar Bluff earned three straight defensive stops in the first half, and pulled to within 14-7 at halftime following its most impressive drive of the game.
But the Rebels needed only three plays and 48 seconds to extend the margin after Bryant returned the third-quarter kickoff 34 yards. Murphy showed his mobility on a 26-yard touchdown scramble.
Murphy was 12-of-20 passing for 146 yards, and tacked on a couple of scoring strikes for insurance once the host Mules stalled at the Central 31 following a bad snap.
A holding penalty wiped out a superb leaping catch by Bryant over isolated single coverage, but Murphy found him on a 25-yard deep slant before a fade pass to Braydon Berry added the 2-point conversion.
A pair of 15-yard flags against the Rebels helped Poplar Bluff answer, as Logan Hite punched in a 2-yard scoring run to draw within 28-13 late in the third quarter.
Three straight receptions by Romeoh Wontor sparked another hopeful possession by the Mules down the stretch, but freshman cornerback Karras Foster broke up a fourth-down pass.
Harlow earlier scored from 18 yards away on his lone carry of the game, and applied a dagger by taking a short catch 51 yards with 6:48 remaining.
Central (1-0) capitalized on an initial three-and-out series when Bryant fielded a punt, eluded the first man to arrive, and bolted down the left side for a 59-yard touchdown.
Bryant amassed 57 yards on four catches, and rushed eight times for 54 yards. Murphy had 51 yards on the ground, and Jones ended with 31 on five carries.
Sammy Callaway and Nathan Weinhold paced the defensive front with sacks. Caden Casey caught a two-point pass after Harlow scored late in the second quarter.
Wontor stood out for Poplar Bluff (0-1) with eight receptions for 110 yards, and brought in a 22-yard pass between Bryant and Casey to make it 14-7 with 1:09 left in the first half.
That scoring drive was bolstered by a 33-yard run from Kolyn McBride.
Central will host Caruthersville in week 2.
Festus 38, Ste. Genevieve 7
FESTUS, Mo. – Two long touchdown passes in the second quarter rallied Festus toward a 38-7 victory over Ste. Genevieve in the football season opener on Friday night.
Landen Yates sealed the outcome with an elusive 68-yard punt return to the end zone, and Festus (1-0) scored 32 unanswered points to avenge last year’s road loss.
Ste. Genevieve (0-1) grabbed an early 7-6 lead when Luke Ferranto connected with Wyatt Springkamper on a 36-yard touchdown pass.
The Tigers countered with a 33-yard strike from Essian Smith to Yates and 35-yard scoring pass from Jeremiah Cunningham to Hayden Bates for a 22-7 halftime edge.
Ferranto was 7-of-13 passing for 83 yards with two interceptions, and paced the Dragons on the ground with 81 yards on 16 carries in his varsity debut at quarterback.
Springkamper provided 65 yards on six receptions in defeat. Jack Farlow rushed for 56 yards on 11 carries, and Justin Schweigert added 32 yards on seven attempts.
Justin Schwent registered two sacks, and Paul Taylor made seven tackles. Ste. Genevieve will travel to Affton on Friday.
Seckman 34, Valle Catholic 21
IMPERIAL, Mo. – Seckman dominated the first half, and time ran out on a Valle Catholic comeback bid during the season opener on Friday night.
The Class 6 Jaguars scored on four consecutive drives in the second quarter, including two touchdown catches by Devin Gosser, and secured a 34-21 victory.
Quarterback Tommy Gibbar rushed for 123 yards and two touchdowns on 22 carries, and found Gosser for a 22-yard scoring pass with 9 seconds on the clock for a 34-0 halftime lead.
Seckman (1-0) capitalized on a pair of fumble recoveries, and got a 39-yard touchdown run from Brady Ambrose after Gibbar capped the initial drive with a 53-yard scamper.
Valle Catholic (0-1) countered with an impressive 15-play drive out of intermission, and broke through when Grant Fallert connected on a 16-yard pass to Isaac Basler.
Tyler Gegg added an 11-yard touchdown catch late in the contest, the culmination of an 87-yard drive, and notched his second score of the night with 44 seconds to play.
Grant Fallert completed 15-of-25 passes for 198 yards, and carried 21 times for 76 yards. Gegg netted 83 yards on five receptions while Cohen Gibbs and Colin Henderson caught three passes each.
Josh Fallert made a team-high 13 tackles, including 10 solo, to pace the Warriors. Alex Viox added nine stops, and Isaac Viox registered a sack among eight tackles.
Valle Catholic, assigned to Class 2 for the first time in program history, will host another strong opponent when Festus visits on Friday.
Dean Moeckel had 16 tackles for Seckman.