The Dragons got in the first three punches to lead Central 20-0 early in the second quarter on field goals of 44 and 45 yards by Dylan Scott, a 52-yard screen pass from Matt Connors to Marcus Bersoza and a 42-yard interception return down the sideline by Cole Johnson.
Central never could get its ground game untracked as the Wildcats finished with just 49. Blake Meadors completed 22 of 37 passes for 350 yards, including touchdown passes of 57 and 27 yards to Devon High which brought the home team back to within 20-14 by halftime.
But Collierville intercepted three passes and recovered a fumble on a kick return while the Dragons did not lose the ball as the visitors from surburban Memphis returned home with a 4-7 record to face neighboring Cordova next week. Central, which pulled off the No. 6 over No. 3 upset at Cordova last year before being victimized as a 3 this time, finished an 8-3 campaign.
“They played really well tonight,” Wildcats coach Brad Dedman said of the Dragons. “We gave them some field position and stuff up front and got ourselves in a hole it was hard to come out of. I tip my hat off to them. They did a heck of a job tonight.
“They made the plays early. We had some early turnovers which put us behind. Those guys made the plays and we didn’t and it put us behind and we played catch-up all night long… You can’t turn the ball over that many times and win playoff games… Ican’t put the blame on anyone else. Just wasn’t our night tonight.”
After forcing a Collierville punt to start the second half, the Wildcats scored on their first series of the third period as High scored his third touchdown of the night on an 8-yard jet sweep. High caught nine passes for 156 yards while Colton Dowell had five grabs for 110.
Adam Williams, who was just wide right from 55 yards on a rarely-seen free kick in the closing seconds of the first half, kicked the extra point to put Central up for the first time 21-20.
It turned out to be the Wildcats’ only lead, and it didn’t last long, as Connors connected with Bersoza with a 58-yard pass to set up the quarterback’s 9-yard run. Connors was sacked on the two-point conversion but the Dragons led 26-21.
Central fumbled the ensuing kickoff. The Wildcats, who held Cordova to a field goal on a short field following a first-half interception, kept the Dragons out of the end zone again as Scott hit from 24 yards for a 29-21 lead.
Connors, who connected on 18 of 26 for 253 yards, found a wide-open Alex Smith from 39 yards for the final score. Bersoza led Collierville with seven catches for 142 yards.
Down two scores, Central made a bid to rally, reaching the Collierville 23-yard lien. A block-in-the-back penalty pushed the ‘Cats back. Meadors found what appeared to be a wide-open Tyler Bowes deep downfield. But free safety Zach Mitchell closed in and intercepted the ball in front of Bowes.
Central later reached the Collierville 21, but got no further.
And that’s how the Wildcats’ second home playoff game in their 16-year history wrapped up. Central beat Coffee County here in 2005.
“What these seniors have done for this football program has been amazing,” Dedman said. “I want to hug every one of their necks tonight and tell them how much I love them and what they’ve done for this football program. I’m just proud of what they’ve been able to do all year long.”
Collierville 35, Wilson Central 21
Collierville 10 10 15 0—35
Wilson Central 0 14 7 0—21
Collierville—Dylan Scott 44 FG, 6:03.
Collierville—Marcus Bersoza 52 pass from Matt Connors (Scott kick), 3:20.
Collierville—Scott 45 FG, 11:12.
Collierville—Cole Johnson 542 interception return (Scott kick), 10:21.
Wilson Central—Devon High 57 pass from Blake Meadors (Adam Williams kick), 3:11.
Wilson Central—High 27 pass from Meadors (Williams kick), 1:50.
Wilson Central—High 7 run (Williams kick), 9:26.
Collierville—Connors 9 run (run failed), 8:45.
Collierville—Scott 24 FG, 5:44.
Collierville—Alex Smith 39 pass from Connors (kick blocked), 1:29.
Collierville Wilson Central
First downs 17 17
—Rush-Pass-Penalty 5-11-1 5-10-2
Rushes-yards 43-125 20-49
Passing yards 253 350
—Comp.-Att.-Int. 18-26-0 22-37-3
Penalties-yards 11-102 6-45
Punts-avg. 7-29.4 5-38.6
Fumbles lost 0 1
RUSHING—Collierville: Matt Connors 11-20, Mikho Grandison 7-35, Cole Johnson 2-14, Auggie Burke 1-4, Peyton McCay 22-60. Wilson Central: Tyler Bowes 10-8, Blake Meadors 7-16, Devon High 3-25.
PASSING—Collierville: Matt Connors 18-26-0—253. Wilson Central: Blake Meadors 22-378-3—350.
RECEIVING—Collierville: Marcus Bersoza 7-142, Mikho Grandison 3-10, Alex Smith 4-74, Peyton McCay 1-(-4), Justin Stonework 2-24, Corey Fitzprick 1-7. Wilson Central: Colton Dowell 5-110, Devon High 9-156, Spencer Welch 4-40, Dalton King 2-9, Tyler Bowes 1-6, Brandon Leach 1-29.
MISSED FIELD GOALS—Wilson Central: Adam Williams 55.