LAKEWOOD — The Centaurus defense registered a shutout Thursday night, but it won’t officially go into the books that way.
It won’t go down as a win, either.
A pair of special-teams blemishes and a couple of offensive miscues redacted the gloss from the fine defensive effort, and the visiting Warriors fell 23-3 to Conifer at Trailblazer Stadium.
How can a team surrender more than 20 points when the defense has a clean sheet? Conifer scored on an interception return, a safety, a kickoff return, and another return on a free kick after the safety.
“Our defense put us in such good position,” Centaurus coach Chad Sensensey said. “And to play that well on one side of the ball and only be up 3-0, I don’t know if it was demoralizing, but that was the game right there.”
Centaurus (3-5, 1-2) had an opportunity to take control of the Class 3A Metro North League game early. The Warriors forced five turnovers in the first half, including four in Conifer territory and three on the Lobos’ first eight plays.
But the Warriors scored only three points, and those came when Shayne Albertson sneaked through a 27-yard field goal after the third turnover.
“It’s was unfortunate,” Warriors senior center/defensive tackle Matt Maierhofer said. “We felt decent about it at halftime because we were still in the game at 7-3, but we need to convert in the red zone. As an offense, we have to make plays.”
Although Centaurus won the turnover battle 5-1 in the half, it was the Warriors’ lone giveaway that made the difference. Conifer’s only first-half score was a 30-yard interception return by Mike Corkill.
The Lobos (6-2, 2-1) then seized command when Richie Benson took the second-half kickoff 82 yards to make it 14-3. Then in the fourth, Conifer forced Warriors quarterback Ryan Cotter to step on the back line of the end zone for a safety.
On the ensuing free kick, Conifer QB Vaughn Brasseaux was deep and returned it directly up the seam for a 70-yard score.
“Take away a couple of special-teams plays and it’s a 7-3 or a 9-3 game,” Maierhofer said. “That’s a game at the end there. Make one play and you can win it.”
Centaurus forced three fumbles, the first of which was recovered by Maierhofer, and got interceptions from freshman Mac Post and senior Matt Buchler in the first half.
“Right now we’re looking for some positives, some things to hang our hat on after last week’s performance,” said Senseney, referring to a lopsided loss to D’Evelyn. “What we told the kids is we got better on the defensive side.”
Part of that was due to having a healthy cadre of starters for one of the only times this season. Maierhofer and linebackers Colton Oglesbee and Matthew Axelrod all have missed time this fall along with others, but everyone was ready to go Thursday.
But as fate would have it, Air Force-bound defensive lineman Mike DeVries suffered a high ankle sprain late in the third quarter and had to leave the game. Initially, the injury doesn’t appear to be season-ending according to Warriors personnel.
Centaurus closes the regular season with a home game against Evergreen, ranked No. 3 in the AP media poll, and at Thomas Jefferson.
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Conifer 23, Centaurus 3
At Trailblazer Stadium
Centaurus (3-5, 1-2) 3 0 0 0 — 3
Conifer (6-2, 2-1) 0 7 7 9 — 23
Centaurus — Shayne Albertson 27 FG.
Conifer — Mike Corkill 30 interception return (Jake Borchard kick).
Conifer — Richie Benson 82 kickoff return (Borchard kick).
Conifer — Safety, Cotter stepped out of end zone. Conifer — Brasseaux 70 free kick return (Borchard kick).
RUSHING — Centaurus: Cruz 12-41, Buchler 12-27, Axelrod 6-21, Post 1-1, Cotter 2-(minus 16). Conifer: Brasseaux 9-67, Evens 10-62, Geer 16-45, Benson 5-32.
PASSING — Centaurus: Cotter 7-20-1-39. Conifer: Brasseaux 4-8-1-32, Aceto 1-3-1-9.
RECEIVING — Centaurus: Albertson 3-28, Fase 1-11, Sadoff-Tierney 1-2, Post 1-0, Buchler 1-(minus 2). Conifer: Benson 3-25, Meyer 1-9, Wiklund 1-7.