Punched in the mouth early by Idaho Falls, Century punched back, riding Jovan Sowell’s five receiving touchdowns to a 42-20 comeback victory at Holt Arena on Friday.
The Tigers burst out of the gate, taking a 14-0 lead before the first quarter was over. But Century quarterback Nathan Manning, making his return from an injury that caused him to miss the season-opener, led the Diamondbacks’ offense to 28 unanswered points.
All five of Manning’s touchdown throws in the game went to Sowell, as the diminutive speedster ran around, through and over the top of Idaho Falls’ defense in a career performance.
“I think it was more how they were playing us,” Sowell said. “They were covering Drew (Gunter) and Bruin and Titan (Fleischmann) really well, and I was just getting open. Nate was hitting me really well … and I just made the most of my opportunities.”
Spencer Moore ran for 152 yards for Idaho Falls (0-2), including 60 on the opening drive of the game. He capped that march for the Tigers by taking a pitch to the right into the end zone from 7 yards out.
PHOTOS: Century vs Idaho Falls football
After a punt by Century (1-1), Idaho Falls used the threat of the run to draw the Diamondbacks up, and quarterback Taggert Miller hit Bradley Thompson behind the secondary for a 32-yard score and a 14-0 lead with 6:11 left in the first quarter.
“We have a habit of not getting off the bus,” Century head coach Travis Hobson said. “Out of our cars, out of the locker room, whatever cliche you want. We just don’t start well. We haven’t for years. It’s really getting frustrating.”
With Century staring another multiple-score deficit in the face, a week after the D-backs lost 62-28 to Lehi (UT), Manning went to work.
The 2018 Journal All-Area quarterback led a 13-play, 88-yard scoring drive, converting two third downs along the way.
On second-and-goal from Idaho Falls' 1-yard line, De’Qua Lang bulled over to cut the Idaho Falls lead to 14-7 with one second left in the first quarter.
That was the spark the D-backs needed.
On the next Idaho Falls possession, the defense forced a three-and-out for the first time, and it took the offense just four plays to tie the game from there.
Sowell took a short pass from Manning and broke several tackles on his way to the end zone for a 20-yard score to make it 14-14 with 9:03 left in the second quarter.
The next Century drive was more of the same — just four plays again, and Sowell capping it, this time with a 54-yard touchdown after running past the Tigers’ secondary.
That gave Century a 21-14 lead at halftime.
“It was one of those things, I wanted them to figure it out,” Hobson said. “It’s a non-conference game … it means a lot, but in the big picture, we can afford to lose that one. So we said nothing, and I challenged my coaches to get on the TV, get on the instant replay, get it figured out and get it fixed. It was just a matter of staying calm and fixing the issues.”
Manning and Sowell finished the run of four straight Century touchdowns in style on the first drive of the second half, with Sowell again running past the whole Idaho Falls secondary for a 73-yard pitch-and-catch score.
To their credit, the Tigers, after being blitzed like that, didn’t fold. The defense finally forced a punt, and Taggert led a 13-play drive of his own in response to Manning.
On fourth and 11 from the Century 13, he flung a throw barely over the outstretched hand of a Century linebacker to Jackson Baker for a crucial score. Dillon Samana blocked the extra point for the Diamondbacks, but the touchdown gave Idaho Falls life, down just 28-20 as the third quarter ended.
“When we came out in the third and ran cover 4, it worked for a little bit,” Idaho Falls head coach Marty Duffin said. “We stopped them, and I thought we had a good run.”
The Tigers would even have a chance to tie after another Century punt, but went three-and-out midway through the fourth quarter.
This time, it took Century just two plays to slam the door, and once again it was Sowell, as he caught a screen on the left sideline and outraced everybody to the end zone for a 35-20 lead with 7:06 left.
An Idaho Falls punt on the subsequent possession effectively ended the game, but Sowell twisted the knife once more before it was over, again getting wide open downfield for a 55-yard score.
The junior finished with eight catches for 275 yards and the five touchdowns.
“I think people underestimate Jovan,” Hobson said. “He’s short. We’ve got a bunch of 6-foot-3, 6-foot-4 receivers, and I think teams key on them. Jovan’s sneaky, and when you walk out here, you’re five-and-a-half feet tall, people tend to think you’re not a ballplayer. But he’s a ballplayer.”
Century faces Pocatello next Friday at Holt Arena.