Celina’s exit from Chaparral Stadium was a tough pill to swallow on Oct. 9 — playing its first game in 21 days and immediately put behind the 8-ball in the District 4-4A Division II title race after losing to Aubrey, 36-27, in its conference opener.
The following morning, the Bobcats (2-4 overall, 1-1 in district) began to put the pieces back together — mostly through shoring up the mental side of things and rededicating themselves to the importance of preparation for the remainder of their district schedule. On Oct. 16, head coach Bill Elliott saw his team bounce back with its highest scoring output of the season in a 64-7 rout of Krum.
“We had a lot of talks and meetings, starting on Saturday after the Aubrey game. We talked about what it takes to prepare for a game and your mindset, because I think so much of a football game is mental,” Elliott said. “You have to be prepared to play and they agreed. They really focused last week on preparing themselves and getting ready to play a game. We had a really great week of workouts and were really focused on Friday. We were hitting on all cylinders in all three phases.”
Only one other time since September 2016 had the Bobcats scored at least 64 points in a ballgame — a barrage that came mostly in the first half as Celina sprinted out to a 55-7 halftime lead on Krum.
The Bobcats found the end zone in all three phases, mixing seven offensive touchdowns with scores on defense and special teams. The latter two came in the second quarter after senior Caden Knowles returned a punt 39 yards for a touchdown and, moments later, junior Cole Marthiljohni took an interception 70 yards to the house as part of a 34-point second quarter.
Sophomore Noah Bentley and senior Reagan Davenport both took snaps at quarterback on Friday, with the former starting the ballgame and the latter coming in during the second quarter as Celina’s lead swelled. Both signal-callers were productive in the blowout win — Bentley completed 8-of-10 passes for 160 yards and two touchdowns, and Davenport threw for 86 yards and three scores on 6-of-8 attempts.
“We’re still waiting for someone to step up and take hold of that position. We’ll see how it goes this week,” Elliott said.
The Bobcats have also had to scour the depth chart to fill out their running game, turning to the tandem of senior Jake Ubanoski and sophomore Gabe Gayton on Friday. Ubanoski found the end zone twice in the first quarter and Gayton averaged nearly 6.5 yards per carry on his way to an 84-yard night.
“Jake ran physical and tough, and we’re going to keep him in there (at running back). He’ll play both ways for us,” Elliott said.
Senior DJ Dell’Anno, junior Collin Urich and sophomore Trae Hollins all logged receiving touchdowns in the with Dell’Anno finding the end zone on all three of his receptions as part of a 56-yard night for the 6-foot-7 pass-catcher.
“There aren’t too many 6-7 guys running around out there,” Elliott said. “He’s got great hands and is a great target for our quarterbacks. They know they can throw it up and that he’ll go get it. You’ll usually either get a completion or a (pass interference) on the defense. It’s a great weapon for us to have.”
Elliott lauded his team’s response following an Aubrey game where Celina let a 20-14 halftime lead get away over the final two quarters. In addition to struggling with turnovers and the occasional schematic breakdown, Elliott said the team’s long layoff contributed to the overall malaise of the Bobcats’ performance.
“I think having those two weeks off hurt us a bit. We played real well against Paul Pewitt and just weren’t as sharp or focused after being off for a couple weeks,” Elliott said.
Back on schedule, the Bobcats look for a repeat showing Friday on the road when they visit Van Alstyne. Elliott likened the Panthers’ spread attack to that of Krum’s, with a key difference being the dual-threat skill set of quarterback Gavin Montgomery.
The Van Alstyne signal-caller doubles as the team’s leading passer (685 yards) and rusher (798 yards), and that reflects in the quarterback’s volume. Montgomery enters Friday’s game with 129 carries for just over 6 yards per carry — more than double the workload of the team’s second-leading rusher.
“Their offense is really similar to what Krum does, so it helps to have just played against them. They run their quarterback a lot more, though,” Elliott said. “Everything goes through him. He’s their leading rusher and a great scrambler as well. He’s slippery and hard to tackle, so we’ve got to really focus on slowing him down offensively.”
The Panthers are 1-0 in district play, topping Krum 43-13 on Oct. 9 before enjoying its bye this past week. Van Alstyne and Celina kick off at 7:30 p.m. Friday from Panther Stadium.