LAFAYATTE — With a fresh start came a bittersweet end.
Brad Lowry, a powerful offensive lineman whose absence attributed to Centaurus’ 0-5 record, played in his last football game on Friday night.
The 5-foot-10, 255-pound senior will undergo surgery next week to repair an injured shoulder.
But Lowry played through the agony and experienced the thrill of victory one more time during the Warriors’ 27-6 win over Denver North at Warriors Stadium.
Lowry even put the exclamation point on the Northern League opener with a 1-yard touchdown run to cap the scoring in the fourth quarter.
“This is my last game and it meant a lot because playing with all of these guys was an honor,” Lowry, the first to ring the victory bell and the last to exit the locker room, said as tears streamed down his face. “To go out this way with a dominating win and scoring a touchdown when I’ve never scored a touchdown in my life … words can’t explain it.
“It’s probably the greatest feeling I’ve ever had.”
The Warriors (1-5, 1-0) suddenly feel like a first-place team instead of the battered group that lost its five non-conference games — including three against top-10 teams — by an average of 26.2 points.
“It has been a long ride. The kids stayed positive and they know there are two seasons,” said Centaurus coach Chad Senseney. “Right now they’re undefeated and that feels pretty good.”
Centaurus played without several key linemen, including Lowry, during last week’s 34-9 loss to Skyline.
This time Lowry and a deeper group paved the way for a punishing ground attack led by Tanner Martinelli (106 yards, two touchdowns) and Matthew Buchler (70 yards, one touchdown).
“We want to establish that running game and we know we have to moving forward,” Senseney said. “Our O-line is getting better and we’ve created a lot of depth by necessity with guys being out.”
After Denver North’s first possession ended with junior linebacker Taylor Jackson blocking a punt, the Warriors went on a nine-play (all runs), 45-yard drive capped with a 1-yard touchdown run by Martinelli to make the score 6-0.
The Vikings answered with a solid drive that appeared to be thwarted with a costly holding call in the red zone. But on third-and-18, Marin Santiago threw a 21-yard touchdown pass to Robert Castillo to tie the score 6-6.
Both teams attempted 2-point conversions on their first touchdowns that failed.
Jackson was ready for an onside kick attempt by Denver North and recovered to give the Warriors possession at their own 49.
Centaurus took advantage of the short field and took a 13-6 lead after a 9-yard run by Buchler with 11:05 remaining in the second quarter.
Christian Barron intercepted a David Shald pass in the end zone with 24.3 seconds left in the first half to give Denver North some momentum entering the locker room.
A Buchler interception late in a scoreless third quarter set up a 1-yard touchdown run by Martinelli that gave the home team a 20-6 cushion with just over 11 minutes left in the fourth quarter.
The Warriors’ JJ Scott then recovered a fumble at the Denver North 37, which set up Lowry’s score.
“That was probably his last football game,” Senseney said. “We were really counting on him and through no fault of his own he’s out. We’re going to miss him.”
CENTAURUS 27, DENVER NORTH 6
At Centaurus H.S.
Denver North (1-5, 0-1) 6 0 0 6 — 6
Centaurus (1-5, 1-0) 6 7 0 14 — 27
Centaurus — Tanner Martinelli 1 run (conversion failed).
Denver North — Robert Castillo 21 pass from Marin Santiago (conversion failed)
Centaurus — Matthew Buchler 9 run (Brody Jaskul kick).
Centaurus — Martinelli 1 run (Jaskul kick).
Centaurus — Brad Lowry 1 run (Jaskul kick).
First downs 12 19
Rushes-yards 34-134 50-229
Passing yards 72 31
Comp-Att-Int 6-14-1 4-8-1
Fumbles-Lost 1-1 0-0
Penalties-Yards 7-70 6-60
RUSHING — Denver North: Freeland 9-35, Ramirez 16-51, Gonzalez 2-11, Santiago 1-3, Ornelas 5-39, Flores 1-3, Escobedo 1-5; Centaurus: Martinelli 19-106, Scott 11-31, Crawford 2-18, Buchler 15-70, Shald 1-(minus)11, Lowry 2-5.
PASSING (comp-att-int-yards) — Denver North: Santiago 6-14-1, 72 yards; Centaurus: Shald 4-8-1, 31 yards.
RECEIVING — Denver North: Glover 2-25, Castillo 2-33, Freeland 1-8, Ramierez 1-16; Centaurus: Jaskul 1-13, Scott 1-10, Martinelli 1-3, Sapena 1-5.