Senior quarterback Jarrad Hayes made a spectacular debut for Central High School, throwing four touchdown passes and leading the Wildcats to a 55-12 season-opening victory over Istrouma at Wildcat Stadium on Friday night.
Hayes, who did not participate in last week’s jamboree exhibition against Baker, received his notice of eligibility by LHSAA on Wednesday after transferring from McKinley.
Central coach Sid Edwards said he spotted some rust on the senior signal-caller but praised Hayes for running the offense with precision.
“He ran the offense efficiently, and I was very impressed with how he played tonight,” Edwards said. “We’re very blessed to have him out here in his first game. I can tell you he’s a better young man than he is a quarterback, and as you saw he’s a really good quarterback. He’s one of our team leaders and he’s a difference maker. You could tell he made a few small mistakes, but I’m not going to complain.”
Hayes gave the Wildcats fans a reason to celebrate as he connected with senior Gary Triplett for two quick scores in the first quarter and Central took early control.
Hayes completed 13 of 16 passes for 171 yards and no interceptions. Junior Tyler Sansone replaced Hayes just before the end of the first half, and sophomore Trenton Guay also saw action at quarterback in the second half.
Central gained 173 yards on the ground, using 12 different ball carriers. The hosts were penalized eight times for 65 yards and also fumbled twice.
While Central’s offense provided the fireworks in building a 36-0 lead through the first quarter, Edwards also was quick to heap praise on the defense, which held the Indians to minus-3 rushing yards.
“Our defensive coordinator, coach (Ken) Hilton, is doing a great job with our defense,” Edwards said. “They’re kind of a work in progress, but they’re very physical, and if you have that kind of mentality on defense, you can stop some people and get something done. They’re tough and they fly to the ball.”
After Central built a 22-0 lead midway through the first quarter, the defense put points on the board.
Junior defensive back Shane Smith stepped in front of a pass by Randell Bessard and returned it 20 yards for a touchdown. Istrouma sent Derrick Leonard in to play quarterback on the next offensive possession.
Leonard connected with Trie Gibson for a 40-yard gain. But two plays later, junior defender Kevin Henry picked off Leonard’s pass and returned it 70 yards for a touchdown.
The Indians were unable to generate much offense against the stout Wildcat defense. Gibson returned a punt 70 yards for an apparent touchdown in the second quarter, but the play was called back because of a holding infraction.
Bessard found receiver Aaron Hall for a 35-yard gain and later connected once again with Hall for a 15-yard touchdown with eight minutes left to play.
The visitors scored again with four minutes to play when Bessard completed another 1-yard TD pass to Hall.
The game marked the debut of first-year Istrouma coach Que Berniard, who is hoping to improve on last season’s 2-7 record.
“I don’t ever like to lose, but we don’t have anything to hang our heads about tonight,” Berniard said. “We fought hard the whole game and we never gave up. We’ve got something to work with now, and I see good things coming from this team down the road.”