Central claims 'dynasty' status
Central beats Harding -- again
By CHRIS ELSBERRY firstname.lastname@example.org
BRIDGEPORT They were chanting "dynasty, dynasty" as they stormed to the center of the field in celebration as the final horn sounded. And why not? For the Bridgeport Central football team had just done something that no other Hilltopper team had ever done in the 81 seasons of playing against Harding. And that's beat the Presidents four times in a row. Led by senior running back and Most Valuable Player Mike Cobb, who rushed for 157 yards and scored two second-half touchdowns, Central rallied to beat Harding 23-12 before an estimated crowd of 1,500 at Hedges Stadium Thursday morning, giving the Hilltopper seniors four straight wins over their city rivals. "We knew we had to step it up there. We had to come out big," said Cobb, who received the John Johansen Award from the Connecticut Post for his efforts against the Presidents. "This was my last game, the first dynasty ... we didn't want to lose." And Cobb did come up big. He carried the ball 27 times over the frozen turf at Hedges, many going for big gains as Central improved its record to 4-8. His 9-yard touchdown run capping a 99-yard third-quarter drive that chewed up almost seven minutes of clock and his 16-yard scoring run with 5:32 left to play slammed the door on a valiant Harding team (2-9) that, according to head coach Damon Lewis, just ran out of gas. "Central played hard, give them all the credit in the world. We played hard, we just ran out of gas and made some mental mistakes," Lewis said. "It's been the same story all year, low numbers, mental mistakes ... kids get tired. But that drive just killed us. It killed us." Harding had taken a 12-7 lead into the locker room at halftime, thanks to a 94-yard drive at the end of the second quarter. Presidents quarterback Rahiem Coverson completed four passes in the march for 69 yards and scored on a 2-yard run as the clock ran out. But Central opened the third quarter with a monster drive of its own. Starting from its own 1, the Hilltoppers put together a 17-play drive that all but broke the Presidents' backs. The key play was a personal foul call against Harding on a third-and-10 play from the Central 21 that gave Central a first down and kept the drive going. From there, it was all Cobb, who gained the final 40 yards for the go-ahead touchdown in five bruising runs. "When (the field) started to dry off and the ice thawed out, I was able to get my footing, and we just ran it down their throats," Cobb said. "The offensive line did a good job opening holes for me." Harding grabbed the momentum right at the start as Orlando Petgrave took the opening kickoff and went 86 yards up the middle for a touchdown to give the Presidents a 6-0 lead after the conversion failed. Central came back with 9:06 left in the second quarter as fullback Ainsley Small scored from 1 yard out and Felix Rivera's extra point gave the Hilltoppers a 7-6 lead. Coverson's touchdown put Harding on top heading into halftime, but behind Cobb, Central wore down the Presidents, finishing with a team total of 207 yards rushing. "This is never an easy game," Central coach Dave Cadelina said. "Right when you think it's put away, it switches the other way. When we went down by that score, they could have gone in the tank. That's how our season has been for us. But our kids come right back when we needed it. "This senior class can remember that this is the first time in 81 years that Central has won four in a row," Cadelina added. "This team has shown a lot of heart all season, they've stuck it out, these 12 seniors, and they're calling themselves the dynasty. That's how we'll remember this season."