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@CentreFootball Tops Hanover 35-13 in Season Opener
DANVILLE, Ky. (CentreColonels.com) – Making his first career start, junior quarterback Devin Hayes (Bowling Green, Ky.) threw for 356 yards and four touchdowns passes, including two strikes to sophomore wide receiver Cody Estep (Pikeville, Ky.) as the Centre football team bested visiting Hanover by a score of 35-13 in the 2016 season opener on Saturday night at Farris Stadium.
The Colonels have now won six consecutive season-opening contests, including three in a row over the Panthers. All told, Centre has captured five straight victories over Hanover.
Centre is also 15-1 at Farris Stadium since 2013 and has won eight of its last nine games against non-conference opponents in the regular season. In addition, the Colonels have now won six consecutive games dating back to last season.
After marching down the field on its first drive of the 2015 season at Hanover, the Centre offense did much of the same on Saturday as Hayes' 36-yard touchdown pass to Estep capped a seven-play, 65-yard opening drive for the Colonels.
Centre would take the 7-0 advantage into the second quarter, when a fumble by Hanover quarterback Adam Gutermuth was recovered by Centre sophomore defensive lineman Zach Berger (Louisville, Ky.) deep in Panther territory.
The Colonels would need just two plays to find the end zone, when senior running back Nolan Coulter trotted in from 18 yards out to push the Centre lead to 14-0 with 8:21 showing on the clock.
After taking the two-score lead into the locker room, the Colonels wasted little time extending their advantage in the third quarter, as Hayes connected with Estep on a 69-yard touchdown pass just under two minutes into the half, putting Centre on top 21-0.
Later in the third period, after the Colonel defense forced a Hanover three-and-out, Hayes hooked up with Coulter for a 42-yard touchdown pass to push the Centre lead to 28-0 with just over a minute remaining in the stanza.
On Hanover's first drive of the fourth quarter, the Panthers broke the shut out when running back Justin Connors used a four-yard touchdown run to put the Panthers on the board and cut the Centre lead to 21-7.
Connors then found the end zone on the Panthers' next drive as well, this time from one yard out. The extra point attempt was blocked by Estep, making the score 21-13 with 4:09 to play. The junior running back was held to just nine yards heading into the fourth quarter.
Hanover would then try an onside kick, but the Colonels recovered with favorable field position.
On the first play of the drive, Coulter broke loose for a 20-yard run, before Hayes found sophomore wide receiver Jaylon Hibbs (Louisville, Ky.) down the left sideline for a touchdown strike just three plays later. This marked Hibbs' first career touchdown grab and gave the Colonels a 35-13 lead.
On the ensuing drive, Gutermtuh's pass was picked off by Centre junior defensive back Jaxson Hilander (Paris, Ky.) on first down, preserving the Colonels' 22-point advantage.
Centre outgained Hanover 469-206 in the win. The Colonels tallied 356 passing yards compared to the Panthers' 184. Centre also rushed for 113 yards while limiting Hanover to 22 yards on the ground.
Estep finished with career-highs of four catches for 138 yards receiving and two touchdowns, his first two scores of his career. The sophomore had made one catch coming into Saturday.
Coulter paced the Colonels with 24 rushes for 90 yards.
Senior defensive end Trey Yeager (Danville, Ky.) led the Centre defense with 11 tackles on the night, including 2.5 sacks and 4.5 tackles for loss.
Centre hits the road next week taking on another Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference (HCAC) foe in Anderson (Ind.). Kick off against the Ravens is slated for 6 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 10.