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Barton Leads Centennial Over Norco


Corona Centennial High had a seven-year itch and Husky running back Damion Barton was just the back-scratcher the team needed Friday night.

Winless against Norco in its first six years of existence, Centennial--behind Barton's 159 yards and a fourth-quarter touchdown--finally broke through for a 20-14 victory over the Cougars before an estimated 4,000 at Centennial.

Barton rushed for 159 yards and scored the go-ahead touchdown on a 54-yard run with 6:25 remaining in the game to break a 14-14 tie.

Centennial, ranked No. 18 by The Times, improved its record to 8-1 and took control of the Mountain View League at 4-0. No. 11 Norco slipped to 8-1 and 3-1.

"It's been seven years--seven long years," said an exhausted Barton. "I dedicate this game to every [Centennial] player in the past who hasn't beaten them. This is a great win for us."

It didn't look like the Huskies would win after Norco running back Joel Eckenrod hauled in a 22-yard touchdown pass from Andrew Whieldon on a fourth-and-three, giving the Cougars a 14-7 lead with 6:28 remaining in the third quarter.

Centennial's offense, which relies heavily on Barton (he entered the game with 1,139 yards rushing and 17 touchdowns), had sputtered to that point and Barton had just 35 yards on nine attempts.

Then, just like that, it started clicking.

Barton and fullback Arani Fagaima shared rushing duties on eight straight plays that began on Norco's 32-yard line. Fagaima took it the final five yards for a touchdown to tie the score, 14-14, with 9:01 remaining in the game.

Centennial's winning drive lasted two plays. Barton carried for 14 yards on the first play and then broke a tackle on his next attempt, cut to his left and outran the defense into the end zone.

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