Central beats Harding
Updated 11:12 pm, Thursday, November 22, 2012
BRIDGEPORT -- During "The Streak" -- Central's 13-game Thanksgiving Day winning streak over Harding -- the Hilltoppers were blessed with a bevy of talented tailbacks that led the way to victory. Keith Carlos. Joe Richardson. Gio Marmolejos. Shabashe McIntosh. Frederick Tucker.
Now you can add Andrew Louis to the list.
Louis rushed for 100 yards on 11 carries and scored three touchdowns as Central hung on to defeat Harding 30-22 and win for the 14th consecutive time against the Presidents dating back to 1998 before an estimated 1,200 at Hedges Stadium.
Louis was named as the John E. Johansen Award winner as the game's Most Valuable Player in the 91st meeting between the two schools that dates back to 1926. Harding still leads the overall series, 50-37-4.
The victory also gave Central the unofficial "city" championship with wins over its two Bridgeport rivals, Bassick and Harding.
"It means a lot. We never take this game for granted, especially this year," Central coach Dave Cadelina said. "It's been a rough season for our seniors. We're just a few plays a way from possibly being a 6-3 team. This has always been a great game. It always seems to be a nail biter against Harding."
Especially recently. In 2010, Central won 29-25 and last season the Hilltoppers took a 28-20 win. Both times, Harding had a chance to pull off the upset late, but couldn't make the big play.
And this season was no exception. Trailing by eight with just four minutes to play, the Presidents had a first-and-goal at the Central 6-yard line. But the Central defense stiffened, led by two late sacks from Erick Cuatzo, to end Harding's hopes.
"The kids ... there's not much to say to get the kids ready for Central. It was extra special today," Presidents coach Aaron Stroud said. "We haven't beaten them in a long time and we put out a special effort to try and reverse the curse. We dug in deep and did what we could. I have some awesome players that not many people know about yet. I just need some time to let the world see it."
One of those is junior running back D.J. Smith, who on Harding's very first play from scrimmage, went 74 yards for a touchdown and then added the two-point conversion run to give the Presidents the early lead. Smith, a junior, finished the day with 197 yards on just 13 carries. He added a 51-yard TD run in the third quarter and averaged 15.1 yards a carry.
"We spent the whole week preparing for No. 10 (Jahaad Williams) and No. 25 comes out of nowhere," said Cadelina. "We couldn't tackle him. He was a man out there."
A 16-yard touchdown run from Central's Mykel Morris and a three-yard TD run from Louis and conversion runs from Morris and Keyshaun Thomas, put the Hilltoppers ahead 14-8 but Harding answered with a 20-yard scoring pass from Tashaun Ballard to Williams and when Ballard added the conversion run, Harding led 16-14. A second touchdown from Louis, this one a two-yard run with 36 seconds left before halftime, gave Central a 22-16 lead after Thomas added the conversion run.
"He's got strength, he's got good size, good speed but he mostly has heart," Cadelina said of Louis. "Being a captain for us, he made a statement today. Not verbally so much but once he got the ball he it was going to take more than one guy to bring him down."
Louis' third TD, a six-yard run, pushed the Hilltoppers margin to 30-16 with 2:09 left in the third quarter but Smith broke free for a 51-yard run to make it 30-22 heading into the fourth quarter.
And with four minutes left, the Presidents were just six yards away from possibly tying the game.
Only the big play that they needed eluded them once again.
"I can't say enough about my kids," Stroud said. "They're all here working every day, they have respect, they're well-spoken and they try hard. I've got a lot of good, young kids. The future's bright at Harding."
Like it has been at Central.
"We both want these bragging rights," Cadelina said "It never gets old for us. It's a thrill to win this today."
CENTRAL.......................................8 14 8 0--30
HARDING.......................................8 8 6 0--22
H--D.J. Smith, 74 run (Smith run)
C--Mykel Morris, 16 run (Morris run)
C--Andrew Louis, 3 run (ran failed)
H--Jahaad Williams, 20 pass from Tashaun Ballard (Ballard run)
C--Louis, 2 run (Keyshaun Thomas run)
C--Louis, 6 run (Thomas run)
H--Smith, 51 run (pass failed)
Records: Central 3-6, Harding 0-10