CARBONDALE — There are some talented athletes in the South Seven Conference and Centralia's Mason Blakemore may be at the top of the list.
The 6-foot, 1, 195-pound halfback with blazing speed and an ability to both run through and around would-be tacklers rushed for 283 yards on 27 carries with three touchdowns to lead the Orphans to a 36-28 come-from-behind win over the Carbondale Terriers Friday evening at Frank Bleyer Field.
Blakemore, whose white jersey No. 3 was easy to spot as Carbondale defenders chased him from behind much of the night, scored on runs of 56 and 48 yards from scrimmage and tacked on a 60-yard kickoff return for a score, as well.
"Mason's a special back. He's really good at what he does, and he ran the ball very well tonight," said Centralia head coach Brad Goewey. "The way he hits the hole is really good. He hits it with some speed that you don't see a lot of in high school sports unless they're next-level guys and I think he's going to be a very capable next-level player."
Goewey added that Carbondale is a tough place to play and he knew the Terriers would be difficult to beat on their home turf.
"The was the first time some of our kids had been in an intense environment and we were a little wide-eyed there for a while, but we fought through some adversity. We're very happy to get out of here with a win."
With the win, the Orphans improve to 2-0, while the Terriers slide to 0-2.
Carbondale head coach Bryan Lee said inexperience was a big factor in the loss.
"We have some kids who need some seasoning and it's my job to season them," he said. "What you're seeing is kids making young mistakes, dumb mistakes — mistakes we haven't made in a couple of years when we had more veteran kids. We can't keep letting good opportunities escape us like we did tonight."
Lee pointed out that a 9-yard touchdown pass from Darius Ragland to Demarcus Funchess was called back due to a holding penalty late in the second quarter. The Terriers had to settle for a 33-yard field goal by Ian Davis.
And then midway through the fourth period, senior linebacker Braden Hudgins scooped up a fumble and romped more than 50 yards before being dragged down from behind by Blakemore at the Orphans' 20.
Carbondale failed to take advantage of the golden opportunity as Ragland's sideline pass was deflected and intercepted by Camden Newcomb.
"We had the momentum for a while, but we just didn't finish," Lee said. "We kept it close, but we just didn't do what we needed to do (to win)."
Centralia opened the scoring with a 38-yard field goal by Will Graham with 6:45 to play in the first quarter.
The Terriers took the lead at 7-3 about three minutes later on a 6-yard touchdown pass from Ragland to Funchess. The score was set up by an errant snap over the Centralia punter's head, which placed the ball at the Orphans' 6.
After recovering an on-side kick, the Terriers drove to the visitors' 20, but eventually turned the ball over on downs.
Centralia regained the lead at 9-7 with 10:03 left in the second quarter when quarterback Carson Green hooked up with Crue Walker for a 43-yard score. The point-after-kick failed.
The Terriers bounced right back to regain the lead at 14-9 at the 8:38 mark after Gabe Hillard reached paydirt from three yards out. The score was set up by 31-yard and 21-yard pass plays from Ragland to Lamark Threadgill. Ragland also contributed an 18-yard run.
The Orphans took the lead back on their next possession at 15-14 with 8:26 left in the half following a 56-yard run by Blakemore. The kick failed.
Carbondale didn't pout, pushing across another score - this time on a 9-yard run by Ragland at the 4:39 mark that was set up by a 35-yard pass completion to Funchess. Ragland also found Funchess for the two-point conversion and a 22-15 lead.
The Terriers had a touchdown called back on their next possession and opted instead for a 33-yard field goal by Davis to make the score 25-15 with 2:45 left before intermission.
Undaunted, Centralia scored a minute later on a 9-yard TD pass from Green to his big fullback, Caleb Wright. The PAT was true and the deficit had been cut to three at 25-22. There was no further scoring in the half.
In fact, the Terriers would only score once in the second half, that coming on a 40-yard field goal from Davis at the 4:21 mark of the third period to increase the lead to 28-22.
It was all Orphans after that, however. Blakemore returned the ensuing kickoff 60 yards for a touchdown. The extra point gave Centralia the lead back at 29-28. They scored one final time with 1:47 left in the third period on a 48-yard run by Blakemore. And it was Blakemore who ran out the clock with a series of first-down runs.
Carbondale had its chances, especially after the long fumble run by Hudgins, but could not cash in on the opportunity.