CENTRAL HIGH – When the play call is Charger Left, Payton Spencer is confident everything will go all right for Central.
Even if the opposition brings a whole brigade to stop it.
Spencer, the Bronchos’ junior quarterback, scored two first-half touchdowns on Charger Left and added another in third quarter, as homestanding Central High routed Paoli, 32-14, Friday in the season opener for both schools.
Spencer, who is built more like a small mobile home than a Patrick Mahomes, rushed for 95 yards on 11 carries and didn’t take an offensive snap after the 5:11 mark of the third quarter.
Spencer’s scores kept Central afloat early – the Bronchos clung to a 14-6 lead at half – and he scored on the first series of the second half to kickstart a Central third quarter onslaught that proved decisive. The Bronchos outscored Paoli 18-0 in the third stanza to put the game out of reach.
But it was Charger Left that put a jolt into the Central offense immediately.
After Central High stopped Paoli on fourth-and-long inside its own 20, Charger Left was Central’s first call of the season. Spencer took the snap, sprinted back and to his left and then started to weave his way through heavy traffic.
Like an angry bowling ball knocking down pesky pins, Spencer made his own alley to the end zone, with Pugs falling aside left and right. The dash ended with a touchdown jubilee 13 yards later. Elijah Peoples ran for the two-point conversion, and Central led 8-0 with just two minutes gone in the season.
“The call was Charger Left, and the hole got blocked,” Spencer said. “I saw three guys there, so I had to give them what they wanted. I like taking hits. I’m used to it. I love that stuff. It fills me up.”
The Bronchos looked to have Paoli stopped on the next drive when a Henry Snell pass intended for Gunner Manning fell incomplete on third down. However, Central High was called for a 15-yard penalty – and two plays later, Snell threw to a wide-open Manning for a 47-yard touchdown.
Spencer attempted his only two passes near the end of the first quarter. He completed one of them for a 7-yard gain that moved Central High to the Pugs’ 20-yardline. But then Spencer was stuffed for no gain on a rush attempt and threw an incomplete pass and eventually faced a fourth-and-2 from the 20.
Second-year Central coach Gerald White dialed up Charger Left. And in an eerie spirit of Déjà vu, Spencer took the snap, sprinted back and to his left and then started to weave his way through heavy traffic. The angry bowling ball was rolling again, and pins were flying. Pugs feel to the side, left and right. Twenty yards later, he crossed the goal line as the buzzer sounded to end the quarter.
“We kind of go three or four yards at a time,” White said. “Depth is a problem for us. We try to run the ball and run the clock. It’s not pretty, but it can be effective.”
Spencer changed his routine on the first possession of the second half. On third-and-goal from the 11, Spencer took the snap and started left again, but this time he cut back right and found nothing but green grass and the white chalk of the end zone. His third TD jaunt gave Central its most comfortable lead at 20-6.
Near the end of the third, junior Levi Young found a friendly left side too. He scampered 25 yards down the left side through traffic and into the end zone with 1:39 left in the quarter.
Three plays later, Young picked off a pass by Snell, who was being harassed by Central High defensive linemen, and raced 20 yards down the right boundary untouched to paydirt. That gave the Bronchos a 32-6 advantage with 30 second left in the stanza.
Young finished with 76 yards rushing on 10 carries.
White praised Central’s defense, which caused Paoli to abandon the run early. The Pugs finished with minus-70 yards rushing on 28 carries. Most of the losses came as result of bad snaps out of the shotgun and quarterback sacks.
The Pugs found more success in the passing game. Snell and Edgar Lua combined for some 200 yards passing and two touchdowns.
With a 1-0 record, the Central High Bronchos will look to improve their record to 2-0 starting at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 3 on the road against Maysville.
Paoli will be back on the road Friday night at Graham-Dustin.