CHESTERFIELD – Exactly three weeks ago to the day, the then-undefeated football team left PCH Stadium dismayed and disappointed, and a little beaten up, after suffering a three-touchdown loss to fellow Suburban South Conference power Kirkwood.
Since then, the Colts have retooled and refocused, and seem to have found a formula that has once again made them one of the best teams in the state.
And on Friday night, back at PCH Stadium, the new and improved Central squad showed just how powerful it could be, as it completely bullied previously unbeaten and statewide No. 2 ranked Webster Groves, 34-13, for a win that clinches the district championship for the Colts.
“That’s something that’s such a nice feather in the cap for these kids,” Central head coach Mark Goldenberg said, after being told that his club had officially won its first district championship since 2007.
“Kids like (seniors Brandon Sheperd and Logan Boyher) have played since their freshman year. And Spencer Horwitz has played since he was a sophomore. This senior class has just really put in the effort, and I’m just so, so happy for these guys.”
Central improved its season record to 8-1 with the win, and will likely move up from its current No. 6 slot in the state rankings, when the new poll comes out next week.
And the Colts earned it, as they completely dominated the line of scrimmage against the Statesmen on Friday.
Central totaled nearly 400 yards of total offense, while holding the high-powered Webster Groves club to just over 200 yards.
Senior running back Alan Gasanli carried the ball 32 times for 142 yards and scored three touchdowns, including two late in the second quarter that allowed Central to turn a 13-8 early deficit into a 21-13 halftime edge.
“It was all about attitude,” Gasanli said, while his teammates danced at midfield in celebration with the throngs of jubilant Parkway Central fans. “Our offensive and defensive lines just pounded on those guys. It was fun just running behind them all night.”
Webster actually held the lead twice in the early going.
Senior quarterback Rayshawn Simmons, the Suburban South Conference leader in touchdown passes (23 heading into Friday), added to his season total, and got the Statesmen on the board, with a 23-yard strike to fellow senior A.J. Farrar.
Central’s Cole Gorman answered back with an 8-yard scoring pass to Brandon Sheperd, then threw a two-point conversion pass to Eriq Moore, to make the score 8-7 Colts.
But Webster’s Mike Cole made one of the highlight reel plays of the Statesmen’s season a bit later, when he picked off a Gorman pass and raced 40 yards to the endzone, for a score that, for a time at least, whipped the Webster sideline into a frenzy.
“That was a magnificent play by Mike,” Webster head coach Cliff Ice said. “Thank God for the turnovers they gave us, or I don’t know what the score would’ve been.
“We just tip our cap to them. I don’t know what it was really, but they beat us. Hopefully, we’ll see them again.”
Gasanli’s two runs helped turned the tide at the end of the first half, but the true backbreaker for Webster, was the 59-yard touchdown pass Gorman threw to Sheperd at the beginning of the second half.
Sheperd broke open down the right sideline, right in front of his own bench, and somehow made a leaping catch around the 20-yard line, with a Webster defender all over him, then spun away from trouble and raced the remaining 15 yards into the endzone for his league-leading 18th touchdown of the season.
“He’s a great player,” Ice said. “We knew that. And we tried to do some things to keep him from breaking the game open with some big plays. But he made a big one right there that really hurt us.”
The Statesmen fell to 7-1 on the season, and will host Parkway North in a winner-take-all, playoff elimination game next week.
The winner of that matchup will earn the district’s second state tournament playoff spot, with the first going to its champion, Parkway Central.
The Colts will close out the regular season next Friday, with a matchup against Chaminade, at 7 p.m.
Winning the Class 5 District 2 title also earned Central a first-round playoff bye, which means the Colts won’t have to play in the sectional round on Wednesday, November 2.
Instead, Central has earned an automatic trip to super-sectional round, which will be held at PCH Stadium, on Monday, November 7, and will pit the Colts against either the winner of Class 5 District 1 or the District 2 runner-up.
No matter what though, Parkway Central has more football left in its season, and its coach couldn’t be more excited about it.
“I’m just proud of our kids,” Goldenberg said. “It’s awesome to see all the hard work these kids put in pay off.”
Score by Quarters
WG: A.J. Farrar 23 yd pass from Rayshawn Simmons (Ben Kemper kick), 7:39
PC: Brandon Sheperd 8 yd pass from Cole Gorman (Eriq Moore pass from Cole Gorman), 1:44
WG: Mike Cole 40 yd interception (run failed), 10:23
PC: Alan Gasanli 4 yd run (pass failed), 6:26
PC: Alan Gasanli 3 yd run (Zack Lazenby kick), :49
PC: Brandon Sheperd 59 yd pass from Cole Gorman (run failed), 10:06
PC: Alan Gasanli 3 yd run (Zack Lazenby kick), 10:23