It was a chance for revenge. Macon was still feeling the sting of a 49-14 loss to Centralia in the final week of the regular season, and now its win or go home.
The Tigers faced off once more against the Panthers Wednesday night in the Class 3, District 6 semis, with the winner to face the top-seeded California Pintos Monday night.
Macon would win the coin-toss and elect to defer, as they are used to doing. On the Panther's first play, QB Zach Etzler completed a pass to Gannon Peavler for a 31-yard gain.
The drive would be snuffed out, as Centralia collected a number of false-start penalties, and the Tigers would get the ball for the first time.
Macon would drive down the field on their first drive. QB Craig Smith would complete a pair of passes to Jon Murray and Josh Turner to get into the Panther redzone.
After being forced into a fourth down, Brandon Sontheimer would drive a 27-yard field goal through the uprights, giving Macon a 3-0 lead over Centralia with 7:28 to go in the first quarter. That score would hold at the halftime break.
On Macon's first drive of the second half, the Tigers would convert on a 4th & short, giving them new life.
On first down, Smith would send a pass into coverage and would be picked off by Heath Bishop. In the process of running the ball, Bishop would fumble the ball, and Josh Turner would cover it for Macon, giving the Tigers great field position at the Panther 43.
On the following play, Smith would connect with receiver Brendan Watts for a 20-yard gain to the Centralia 23.
After a pair of short runs by Chris Little and Joe Lewis, Macon would have a third down at the Panther 19. Smith would connect with Turner at the 5, and he would shake a defender and run in for the score. The extra-point would go wide-right, and Macon held a 9-0 lead, which would hold after three quarters.
At the start of the fourth quarter, Macon had the ball 1st & 10 at the Panther 36 yard line. Centralia would hold the line, however, and would get the ball back.
Etzler would get his running game going, and would lead his team into Tiger territory. With 4:19 to go in the fourth, Panther running back Cullen Ralphs would bust into the endzone from a yard out to break the shutout. The point after would get the Panthers within two points of the Tigers, 9-7.
All Macon needed to do was keep the ball inbounds to keep the clock running. Little was a bulldozer in the game, getting big gain after big gain, keeping the ball with the Tigers.
Macon would also force the Panthers to use their timeouts, further backing them into a corner. After Smith took a sack, the Tigers would be forced to punt the ball away to Centralia with about a minute remaining.
Page 2 of 2 - The punt by Macon would be short, and would sail out of bounds at the Panther 43, giving Centralia a chance.
On first down, Etzler would float an incomplete pass to his receiver. On the next play, the Panthers would be called for holding on a pass play, backing them into a 2nd & 20.
Centralia would go 0-3 on their final three passes, and Macon would take over at the Panther 33. QB Smith would take a knee, and the Tigers avenged their earlier loss, beating Centralia 9-7.
After the game, Macon head coach Pete Claas was extremely impressed with the defensive effort from his team.
"I couldn't be more pleased with our defense. They played fantastic," he said. "All of the assistant coaches (Welter, Keeney, Sontheimer, Burgason) did a great job. I was gone a couple days this week, but they stepped up and took the team on their shoulders and it really paid off tonight."
Claas was also happy with his teams pass coverage, and knew the elements probably helped them out.
"The conditions probably helped us a little bit, but we played well enough on defense, and we did enough on offense," he said.
"The footing may not have been the best, but we handled it just a little bit better, and that was all we needed."
The Tigers improve to 9-2 overall and earn a date with the California Pintos Monday night for the Class 3, District 6 championship.
The Pintos defeated Fulton in their semifinal game, 49-0.