Centennial makes it quick in victory over Blaine

Alex Kormann, Star Tribune/Star Tribune/TNS

Centennial coach Mike Diggins had a smile on his face after his Cougars' explosive 45-20 victory over nearby rival Blaine on Friday. Smiles are plentiful on the football team these days.

The Cougars have enjoyed a reputation as a team that eschews flash and cares little for style points. They prefer to outsmack their opponents, winning by being the toughest dudes on the block.

This season, that M.O. has changed a little. Oh, they still look forward to puttin' a hurtin' on the other guys, but this year there's a little swag to their game. It's no longer the "3 yards and a spray of rubber turf pellets" offense that has served them so well. This group, through two games at least, has a nose for pay dirt and the talent to get their quickly.

The biggest example is running back Maverick Harper, who is making up for lost time. The fast and powerful senior 190-pounder was injured in the second game of the season in 2022. He rushed for 181 yards and three touchdowns Friday, including a scintillating 89-yard dash that punctuated a 21-point first quarter. He has 351 yards rushing and seven scores in two weeks.

"Nobody saw Mav Harper play last year. He was hurt in Game 2," Diggins said. "He's a talented running back."

He's far from the only weapon the Cougars have. Backfield mate Ty Burgoon adds a dash of speed to the mix. He repeatedly outraced the Blaine defenders to the edge, finishing with 103 yards on the ground and scoring a touchdown.

"And our quarterback is a third-year starter. He makes things run," Diggins said, referring to Daylen Cummings, whose two touchdowns bookended the scoring for Centennial. He ran for a touchdown — a 3-yard-run that started the scoring — and passed for one, hitting a wide-open Kellen Binder with a 27-yard strike in the fourth quarter.

After sitting out most of last season, Harper couldn't contain his smile, and Diggins wore one, too.

"It always feels good to beat Blaine," Harper said. "It feels so good. This is so much fun. I want to go do it again."

Even the Centennial defense, which had allowed more yards and points than it normally does, doesn't worry Diggins.

"We've got a lot of new starters out there. They'll tighten things up," he said. "We're going to end up being a pretty good defense by the time it's over."