ROCHESTER –– Isaiah Huber fumbled on his very first play of the game. But that was basically his only error on Saturday.
Huber was bottled up in the first half, tallying only 31 rushing yards, but he took the first play of the second half 67 yards for a touchdown. Huber took his last touch of the fourth quarter 74 yards for another touchdown.
Sprinting. Fighting. High-stepping his way into the end zone.
"It started off bad, but once we got going as a team, we got rolling," Huber said. "As a senior, this means everything to me. People have been talking about no fans, but once I got out here, I wasn't thinking about the fans. I was just having so much fun."
The Panthers shook off a rough first half which featured two turnovers deep in their own territory on their first two offensive drives. They battled back from a 13-6 halftime deficit and blitzed John Marshall with 22 unanswered points to come away with a 34-19 victory on opening night.
"It's awesome to be back with these guys," Century head coach Jon Vik said. "But to get back under these lights is such a great experience."
Huber had six carries for 200 yards in the second half alone. He finished with 16 carries for 231 yards and four rushing touchdowns. He added three receptions for 69 yards and a 28-yard touchdown with 3:47 left in the third quarter which gave Century its first lead of the night at 20-19.
"I love him," Vik said. "He's a competitive kid, and he's competitive against himself. That's the key. But he's not going to get those holes without all of those kids who were making big blocks."
Huber dominated the second half, but John Marshall was the better team for close to 25 minutes. The Rockets controlled the line of scrimmage in the first half and most of the third quarter. Senior Parker Navitsky picked off Century's Nathan Eberhart in the first quarter and Nate Swanson dove in from five yards out for the first touchdown of the night. But Huber picked up a fumbled snap and rumbled into the end zone on Century's ensuing possession.
Navitsky wasn't done making an impact. His 44-yard run set up John Marshall's last touchdown with 17.9 seconds left in the first half. Quarterback Cole Peterson lofted up a jump ball for Michael Nicometo and the 6-2 wideout came down with it for the score right before halftime.
Even after Huber punched the Rockets in the mouth with his 67-yard touchdown scamper, John Marshall battled back and Swanson's 46-yard sprint extended the Rockets' lead to 19-12 with 8:41 left in the third quarter.
But John Marshall ran out of gas down the stretch.
"I did like how we ran the ball," Rockets coach Kevin Kirkeby said. "I thought we ran the ball very very well. But kudos to Century. (Huber) is in great shape. He didn't get tired. We got tired. He broke some tackles that he didn't break in the first half. We have so many guys going both ways. We didn't get a full amount of time in the preseason to get conditioned like we usually would, but every team is in the same boat. That's not an excuse. They were able to go a little harder than we were."
Peterson, Navitsky and Swanson valiantly tried to get John Marshall back into the game down the stretch, but Peterson had two passes picked off in the end zone by Century's Jaecan Fratzke. Peterson finished 14-of-28 for 157 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions.
"Our bread and butter wasn't working, so we were forced to go to other things and they worked so that was great," Kirkeby said. "Our run-blocking and our pass protection were way ahead of where we thought it'd be. We made some nice throws, nice catches, nice reads. Offensively, for three quarters, I was really pleased with what we did."
Swanson had 14 carries for 83 yards and two touchdowns. Navitsky finished with 10 carries for 71 yards and three receptions for 55 yards. He also notched that big interception and made a number of key stops.
"Parker has been awesome," Kirkeby said. "I've coached him since 10th grade. I've known him since ninth grade. He's a wonderful kid. He works so hard. I love coaching him. He's competitive. He's one of the most competitive kids I've ever coached. He has some of the best hands on the team. He runs hard. He's strong. He did everything he could in the offseason to get ready. He played soccer. I think he had a really nice game, and I think he gets overlooked on defense. He did so many things well on defense."
But at the end of the day, it was Century that hoisted the Addington Jug. And they couldn't have done it without their star tailback. He eased off the touchdown celebrations after his dad, Ty, came down after his second touchdown. But if Huber keeps scoring five touchdowns a game, he might earn the opportunity to show off his touchdown dances. Just as long as he stays respectful and doesn't draw a flag.
"Keeping the Jug is everything," Huber said. "These seniors are family. I've been playing with these guys since second grade. Being here until the very end is just so fun. What a great night."
Century 34, John Marshall 19
John Marshall 7 6 6 0 — 19
Century 0 6 14 14 — 34
JM — Nate Swanson 5 run (Jack Ward kick), 1:08.
CEN — Isaiah Huber 3 run (failed conversion), 11:55.
JM — Michael Nicometo 7 pass from Cole Peterson (kick failed), 0:17.
CEN — Huber 67 run (failed conversion), 11:44.
JM — Swanson 46 run (kick failed), 8:41.
CEN — Huber 28 pass from Nathan Eberhart (Jaecan Fratzke pass from Eberhart), 3:47.
CEN — Huber 4 run (Fratzke pass from Eberhart), 7:53.
CEN — Huber 74 run (kick failed), 5:29.
Total net yards 343 367
Rushes-yards 39-179 25-279
Passing yards 164 88
Fumbles-lost 0-0 2-2
John Marshall — Nate Swanson 14-83, Parker Navitsky 10-71, Jack Ward 5-10, Cole Peterson 10-15. Century — Isaiah Huber 16-231, Nathan Eberhart 4-21, Cole Elbing 4-8, Matthew Haun 1-19.
John Marshall— Cole Peterson 15-29, 164 yards, 1 TD, 2 INT. Century — Nathan Eberhart 7-11, 88 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT.
John Marshall — Jacob Welp, 2-25, Michael Nicometo, 3-20, Omar Ahmed 3-27, Parker Navitsky 3-55, Jack Ward 3-31, Nate Swanson 1-6. Century— Isaiah Huber 3-69, Jaecan Fratzke 3-12, Donaven Johnson 1-7.