After two close losses a couple weeks ago it looked like the Central High School football team was in a fight to make the state playoffs.
A win against a 0-8 Woodburn team Friday night will clinch the share of the Mid-Willamette Conference championship.
Friday’s comeback 36-30 win against Corvallis improves Central to 5-3 and 4-2 in the Mid-Willamette and ties with South Albany and Crescent Valley for the league lead.
“I mean it’s pretty doggone exciting,” Central coach Shane Hedrick said. “We still feel like we’re small kid on the block. We’re playing four sophomores right now that have a major impact on our football team.
“We’ve got some young kids and we’re excited about that. Those kids mature each week. I thought Corvallis might have been the best team we played this year. I think we played really well Friday night.”
Much of Central’s improvement can be traced to the play of its four starting sophomores.
Braden Fuszek established himself as the starting center, safety Isiah Abraham has 37 tackles and one interception and safety Marcos Cedillo has 33 tackles, including eight for loss with two sacks and an interception.
Maybe the biggest impact has come from quarterback Peter Mendazona, who is 117 of 198 for 1,328 yards and 16 touchdowns against eight interceptions.
Mendazona matured since going 8-for-21 passing with two interceptions in Central’s 10-0 loss to Bend in the season opener.
“I think it’s safe to say, outside of Grant (Hedrick), he’s one of the best sophomore quarterbacks we’ve had,” Shane Hedrick said.
Of course it helps to have one of the best players in the state in highly-recruited junior Marlon Tuipulotu. He has 60 tackles, including 22 for loss with 10 sacks and two interceptions.