Junior quarterback Devin Hayes (Bowling Green, Ky.) shattered a pair of school records, tallying 527 passing yards and seven passing touchdowns to help the Centre football team to a convincing 66-28 Southern Athletic Association (SAA) victory over Rhodes on Saturday at Crain Field.
Centre’s 66 points are the most for the Colonels since defeating Louisville 75-0 on Nov. 21, 1931 on the road.
Hayes topped Drew Mildren’s previous school record of five touchdown passes set against Sewanee in 1998 as well as the previous school record of 445 passing yards set by Heath Haden against Birmingham Southern last season and Brian Behrendt against Maryville (Tenn.) in 2004.
Centre improves to 8-1 overall and 6-1 in SAA play with the win, while the Lynx drop to 5-4 and 3-4, respectively.
Hayes and the Colonel offense were clicking on all cylinders, racking up 703 total yards of offense, including the 527 through the air and an additional 176 on the ground. Centre’s 703 total yards of offense represent a season-high and are the most since the Colonels tallied 769 yards in a win at Hanover on Sept. 3, 2015.
Centre jumped out to a 14-0 first quarter lead with a pair of touchdown passes from Hayes to sophomore running back Colin Burnam (Bowling Green, Ky.) and junior wide receiver Noah Dziedzic (Richmond, Va.). Hayes found Burnam on a 13-yard Bowling Green, Ky. connection before hitting Dziedzic for a 49-yard touchdown strike.
Rhodes got on the board early in the second quarter with a Josh Lucas 19-yard pass from P.J. Settles to shrink the Centre lead to 14-7, before the Colonels answered with 31 of the next 38 points.
Hayes connected with sophomore wide receiver Jaylon Hibbs (Louisville, Ky.) on a 25-yard touchdown pass followed by a 61-yard heave to sophomore wide receiver Cody Estep (Pikeville, Ky.) to put Centre on top 28-7 with just over 11 minutes to play in the half. Rhodes then responded with a Settles one-yard touchdown run to cut the Colonels’ lead in half.
Sophomore kicker Ben Logsdon (Louisville, Ky.) would remain perfect on the year on field goal attempts with a 33-yard kick through the uprights, followed by two more touchdown connections from Hayes to Estep to give the Colonels a 45-14 advantage early in the second half.
Estep had only three catches on the day but made them count in a big way, tying a school record with three touchdown receptions.
After Settles found the end zone with his feet from nine yards out to cut the deficit to 45-21, Hayes struck again, this time on a 62-yard bomb to Dziedzic to push the Centre lead to 52-21 with four minutes to play in the third quarter.
The Lynx opened the fourth quarter with a scoring march as Settles found Alex Richards for a 22-yard touchdown play to shrink the Colonels’ advantage to 52-28.
Centre tacked on a pair of rushing touchdowns in the fourth quarter, as Hayes recorded his eighth total touchdown of the afternoon with a four-yard rushing score followed by a 43-yard touchdown run by sophomore running back Trevor Carnell (Shepherdsville, Ky.) to extend the final score to 66-28.
The Colonels were a sizzling 82 percent (14-of-17) on third down compared to the Lynx’s 31 percent (5-of-16) third down rate. Centre scored on 10 of its 13 drives in the game.
Hayes matched a career-high with 32 completions on 42 attempts. His completion percentage of 76.2 percent represents a career-high, as well.
Eight different receivers had a reception for the Colonels, including four different receivers registering a touchdown catch.
Dziedzic finished with a career-high 199 receiving yards on nine catches with a pair of touchdowns. Senior receiver Duncan Mercer (South Charleston, Ohio) added nine catches for a career-high 143 yards. Estep tallied 74 yards, while Hibbs had four catches for 62 yards and a score. Senior wide receiver Lloyd Hall (Danville, Ky.) caught three balls for 19 yards.
Senior defensive end Ben Bostick (Liberty Township, Ohio) paced the Centre defense with six tackles on the day. The Colonel defense had 10 pass breakups in the win, led by freshman cornerback Cal Lewellyn’s (Louisville, Ky.) team-high three breakups. Senior defensive end Trey Yeager (Danville, Ky.) posted a team-high three quarterback hurries in the win.
Settles was 10-of-40 for 125 yards with a pair of touchdown passes for the Lynx. Monroe McKay led Rhodes on the ground with 13 carries for 111 yards, while Jack Ingalls tallied a game-high 15 tackles for the Lynx defense followed by John Dodd with 11 stops.
Rhodes finished with 323 yards of total offense, including 125 through the air and 198 yards rushing.
The win sets up a pivotal SAA matchup next Saturday between Centre (8-1, 6-1 SAA) and visiting Berry (8-1, 6-1 SAA) on Saturday, Nov. 12 at 1:30 p.m. at Farris Stadium. With a win, the Colonels claim the 2016 SAA championship as well as the SAA’s automatic bid to the NCAA Division III Playoffs. Centre can capture its second conference title in three seasons with the victory.
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by Liam P. Halferty