In the 2018 season opener, the Salina Central Mustangs snapped an 18-game losing streak.
Central took care of another drought versus Eisenhower.
Senior Riley Counts scored twice, the defense came up with important stops in the second half, and the Mustangs squeezed past the Tigers, 20-7, for their first playoff win in five years. Central also recorded its first seven-win campaign since 2007.
On the game’s opening drive, SC needed two important fourth-down conversions. The second resulted in six points as the Mustangs pulled off a fake punt, ending with a six-yard TD sprint by Counts with 5:35 left in the first. Junior quarterback Jackson Kavanagh gave Eisenhower solid field position at the Mustang 30 after an interception, but the defense forced a punt.
The ball was downed at the one, pinning Central back near the goal line. Senior receiver Ben Driver created some space after a one-handed diving grab for 34 yards. That sparked a Kavanagh touchdown pass to senior Gavin Prester for a 22-yard score early in the second. Central quickly received the ball back after a bad snap on an Eisenhower punt, setting up the Mustangs at the 28. A couple plays later, Kavanagh rolled away from a screen pass and delivered a 23-yard scoring strike to Counts at the 9:38 mark.
Central’s offense went silent from there, giving the Tigers some life as they scored with 16 seconds remaining in the half on a two-yard plunge by tailback Parker Wenzel. Eisenhower drove deep into Salina Central territory three times, but each trip ended in disappointment. Eisenhower missed a 29-yard field goal, threw an interception, and turned the ball over on downs.
Salina Central (7-2) heads to Wichita to face No. 4 Bishop Carroll (7-2). The Golden Eagles edged the Newton Railers 40-34 in the first round of the playoffs. Kickoff is at 7 with pregame at 6:45 on Sports Radio 1150 KSAL.