On December 2nd the top two teams collided once again for the second time in less than a month. This time it was for the Open Division championship of the AIA. Two nationally ranked teams, #16 Peoria Liberty and 19 Peoria Centennial, had both shown they were the premier teams in the state throughout the year.
From the beginning Liberty looked to show they were the more dominant of the two. On their first possession the Lions marched right down the field on a drive that resulted in a Navi Bruzon 20-yard touchdown pass to Ryan Jezioro with 7:20 left in the opening quarter. After the missed PAT the score was 6-0 in favor of Liberty. On the next drive Centennial was able to move the ball but the drive ended with a missed 42-yard field goal.
Centennial got the ball back again and this time they were able to capitalize. On a drive that consisted of all runs, Owen Reynosa punched it in from 1 yard out with 1:06 left in the first quarter. Centennial had grabbed the lead 7-6. Centennial had seemed to be gaining some momentum. On their next possession they hit a home run with the deep ball. This was in the form of a 44-yard pass from Kainan Manna to Kenny Worthy III that gave Centennial a 14-6 lead with 7:55 left in the 2nd quarter. Centennial continued to play solid defense on the Lions by stopping them on a 4 th down try with 6:34 remaining in the first half.
After Liberty got the ball back, they hit a home run of their own. This time it was Bruzon connecting again with Jezioro this time for a 50-yard touchdown at the 4:43 mark. After an unsuccessful 2-point conversion try the score was now 14-12 still in favor of Centennial. Liberty looking to swing the momentum in their favor blocked a Centennial punt with 3:26 left in the first half. This block gave them great field position at the Centennial 29-yard line. A Bruzon 4-yard touchdown run with 2:00 minutes left gave Liberty the lead 19-14 heading into halftime.
In the 2nd half Liberty looked to continue to build off the momentum from the end of the first half. They got the opening kickoff of the 3 rd quarter and marched down the field.
The drive was dominated by Bruzon runs and ended with a Jon Wilson 5-yard touchdown run with 7:21 left in the 3 rd quarter. The Liberty lead had now grown to 26-14. The rest of the quarter was back and forth with neither team really moving the ball much. The Centennial Defense led by defensive end Noah Carter did all they could to keep the high powered Liberty offense in check.
With the help of a pass interference call Liberty was able to sustain a drive that
goes deep into Centennial territory. Jon Wilson runs it in from 4 yards out with 7:34 left in the game to give Liberty more breathing room. The lead was now up to 33-14. A Centennial touchdown with 4:00 left in the game brought the score to 33-21. The final score was 33-21 with Liberty winning the Open Championship finishing 12-1 and Centennial being the runner-up with a record of 11-2.
This article originally appeared in The Arizona Informant.</em