The Panthers are ranked No. 4 in Class 2 but needed three late touchdowns, one late in the third quarter and two in the fourth, to defeat the Eagles.
Trailing 22-14 after Dylan Harris of NMCC scored on a 15-yard run up the middle, Centralia scored 20 unanswered points to capture their seventh straight win of the season.
"They have a great team over there," said Centralia head coach Erle Bennett. "They are the best team we have played this year hands down. We are used to a particular style of football from where we come from and New Madrid is totally different. They can bring a ton of athletes at you and their speed is pretty tough to match up with. We knew we were in a tough game and at halftime I just told the kids to focus and finish. Thankfully, we got out of here with a big win."
NMCC had the game well in hand but special team mistakes and turnovers cost the Eagles a big home win.
The Panthers took advantage of a bad snap on a punt attempt by the Eagles and scored a touchdown.
The play of the game happened late in the third quarter when Centralia cut the Eagles lead to 22-20 at 2:50 of the quarter on a 1-yard run by Jake Romine. The touchdown was set up by a bad exchange between Eagle quarterback Leslie Williams and running back Marquese Gates that resulted in a fumble on the Eagles own 1-yard line. The Panthers recovered and scored on the next play.
"It was a hard fought game by both teams but we made too many turnovers and had a lot of special team mistakes," said NMCC head coach Arlen Pixley. "We put our defense, which I thought played great today, in some tough situations. Our kids fought hard though and I can tell you that there were two whipped teams after this game."
The Panthers got on the board first with a safety and a Romine 14-yard touchdown run and led 8-0 at 11:05 of the second quarter.
The game was filled with dazzling plays and Williams of the Eagles might have had the play of the game, if not year.
On third-and-17 at Centralia's 24-yard line, Williams ran an option play to his left that was immediately snuffed out by the Panthers' defense.
Surrounded and with no other opportunities, Williams pitched the football over his head as he was being hauled to the ground and miraculously the ball was caught by Gates who was trailing on the play and he ran for the 24-yard touchdown. The Eagles converted on the two-point conversion and the score was 8-8 at 8:24 of the second quarter.
The key to the game was Centralia's ability to convert crucial plays when they had to. The Panthers took the lead late in the second quarter on a 36-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Clint Gesling to Romine out of the backfield. The successful play was on a 4th-and-3.
In the fourth quarter, Centralia converted on another fourth down play, this time on the Eagles 22-yard line and needing four yards. Romine of the Panthers got the first by the nose of the football and then scored on the next play from 18 yards out.
Romine had a big day for the Panthers scoring five touchdowns on the ground and through the air and finished with 161 yards rushing and 54 yards receiving.
"I thought we kind of wore them down late in the contest," said Bennett. "We played more people and with our no-huddle offense, we thought we would be in better condition. I thought the boys overcame some adversity with the amount of penalties and turnovers we committed today. But give credit to New Madrid, they caused a lot of our mistakes."
The Eagles trailed 28-22 with four minutes to play in the contest. On fourth-
and-8 on their own 48-yard line, Pixley decided to go for the first down but the ensuing pass play was incomplete and the Panthers retained possession of the ball in Eagle territory.
"I should have punted the football on that fourth-down play," said Pixley. "We had the bad snap earlier and I didn't want them to have an even shorter field in which to start from."
Centralia (7-0) drove down the field as time slipped away. With 40 seconds to play, Romine scored on a spectacular 17-yard run.
Romine got past the line of scrimmage and was heading for the sideline. Two Eagle defenders closed quickly and were in position for the tackle.
Instead of running out of bounds and stopping the clock, Romine stopped on a dime, spun in an instant leaving the Eagle defenders tackling nothing but air and ran in the end zone untouched for the score.
Despite the loss, Pixley could take nothing but positives from the game.
"This was a great test for us heading into districts," said Pixley. "Centralia could play with any Class 4 team in this area. It was a playoff-type game today. Our kids gave effort and I was most impressed with our kids willingness to win. The intensity level on this team is the highest it has been in a while."
NMCC (5-2) hosts Kennett (1-6) Friday at 7 p.m. in their first matchup of Class 3, District 1.
C - safety (8:22)
C - Romine 14 run (pass failed) 11:05
N - Gates 24 run (Williams run) 8:24
C - Romine 36 pass from Gesling (kick failed) 4:31
N - Gates 1 run (Williams run) 8:57
N - Harris 15 run (pass failed) 4:36
C - Romine 1 run (run failed) 2:50
C - Romine 18 run (Dick catch) 4:11
C - Romine 17 run (run failed) 41.9
RUSHING - Centralia: Jake Romine 23-161, Mark Morse 9-31, Lawrence Kroger 6-6, Clint Gesling 1-5, Chris Warbritton 1-5. NMCC: Marquese Gates 17-53, Dylan Harris 6-42, Leslie Williams 16-33, DeAnton Brown 2-28, Justin Beasley 1-4, Donte Jenkins 1-(-2) Lennies McFerren III 1-(-3).
PASSING - Centralia: Clint Gesling 9-19-2 124. NMCC: Leslie Williams 5-11-1 67.
RECEIVING - Centralia: Jake Romine 4-54, Josh Papen 3-42, Dyson Dick 1-28, Justin Moore 1-10. NMCC: Justin Beasley 3-34, Woody Smelser 1-18, Dylan Harris 1-15.
DEFENSIVE TACKLES/LEADERS - Centralia: Jake Romine 10, Justin Moore 9 (fumble recovery), Mark Morse 8 (sack), Zach Sage 7 (sack, blocked punt), Lance Auck 7 (fumble rec., punt rec.), Will Evans 2 sacks, Dyson Dick INT. NMCC: Woody Smelser 9, Tommy Rowe 8, L.T. Sutton 8, Patrick Guest 8 (caused fumble), Corey Rowe 7 (fumble rec.) Marquese Gates 6 (fumble rec.) Justin Beasley 2 INTs. FIELD GOALS MISSED - none