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Hayes nearly sets school record, Centre blows out Chicago in Gold Out Game

Find a play that works and stick with it: It’s a simple formula for success, and one Devin Hayes made the most of on Saturday.

The Centre College quarterback used variations of the same play time after time early in the game to slice through Chicago’s defense and stake the Colonels to a big early lead.

It led to big numbers for him and a big win for the Colonels, who led by four touchdowns late in the first half and went on to win 49-27 at Farris Stadium.

Hayes threw for 421 yards and three touchdowns, coming within 24 yards of Centre’s  single-game passing record and helping Centre (4-0, 2-0 Southern Athletic Association) remain undefeated.

The junior enjoyed his best day in his first season as a starter, accounting for 468 yards and five touchdowns in all.

He did most of his damage in the first half, when he completed 24 of 35 passes for 359 yards — eclipsing the career-high mark of 356 yards he posted three weeks earlier — and all three of his passing touchdowns.

“It felt great in the first half,” Hayes said.

Especially at the start of the game, when he and his teammates took advantage of Chicago’s desire to stop the run.

Jeremy Schneider/jeremy.schneider@amnews.com Perryville resident and pediatric cancer survivor Jack Schneider shakes hands with the referee prior to the start of Saturday's Gold Out Game at Centre.

Jeremy Schneider/jeremy.schneider@amnews.com
Perryville resident and pediatric cancer survivor Jack Schneider shakes hands with the referee prior to the start of Saturday’s Gold Out Game at Centre.

“We knew they were going to stop the run, and they had their linebacker playing up,” Centre coach Andy Frye said. “Our first series we were hitting the bubble route, and it finally loosened the running back up, and it helped us be able to get some run plays in. And Devin did a pretty good job.”

Hayes was 11 for 12 for 205 yards on Centre’s first three series — all of which ended with touchdowns — and he went on to complete 13 of his first 14 throws.

“It was just scouting and the way they lined up in certain formations. We knew we could manipulate that if we just executed. I got some time from the O-line, and the receivers ran good routes and I got them the ball,” he said.

Frye said Hayes, who succeeded Heath Haden, the school’s career-passing leader, brings a great deal to the table as well.

“Number one, he gets us in the right play, and two, he does a real good job on his reads,” Frye said. “Heath would beat you with his feet, where Devin will work  his progressions. He’s only going to get better. The more reps he gets, the better he’s going to be. He’s a good quarterback.”

Hayes made hay with screen passes as he led scoring drives on Centre’s first three possessions to help the Colonels race to a 21-0 lead.

Hayes, who finished 31 for 51, went 5 for 5 on the opening drive. He hooked up with Cody Estep for a 46-yard gain on Centre’s first play from scrimmage, and his first four throws went to Estep for a total of 66 yards before he threw a 13-yard touchdown pass to Noah Dziedzic.

Dziedzic, who led the Colonels’ receivers with eight catches for a career-high 155 yards, caught two passes for 45 yards on the second series, including a 30-yard gain to the Chicago 2 that set up a 2-yard scoring run by Hayes.

Austin Hayes, Rubyn Branch and Duncan Mercer all caught passes on the third series, the latter scoring on a 16-yard pass play to give the Colonels a 21-0 lead with 2:55 remaining in the first quarter.

Hayes got his second rushing touchdown when the Colonels went for it on fourth down-and-inches from the 9-yard line and the quarterback raced to the left pylon.

And he shook off a hit to throw a 12-yard TD pass to Dziedzic that gave Centre its largest lead at 35-7 with 2:14 left in the first half.

Chicago (1-2, 1-1) made some adjustments in the second half, and Hayes didn’t fare as well in the third quarter or throw very often in the fourth, when Centre was trying to use up the clock.

“Good job by Chicago making adjustments at halftime, but a shout-out to our defense for getting us a score and getting us some separation so we felt pretty comfortable. We just had to get the game over and get out of here with a win,” Hayes said.

That defensive score came late in the third quarter, when the Maroons were still within two scores. Cal Lewellyn raced in front of a receiver to intercept a pass and returned it 45 yards for a touchdown that put the Colonels up 49-27.

“I thought Cal’s interception is what broke their back,” Frye said. “They had a little momentum going in the second half, and when that happened that finished it off.”

It was the second interception of the game for Lewellyn, the reigning SAA defensive player of the week.

Centre’s defense focused on stopping Chicago  running back Chandler Carroll, who ran for 311 yards in the Maroons’ win over the Colonels a year ago.

On Saturday, Carroll ran for 93 yards, and he caught six passes for 145 yards.

“He did beat us one time on a pass play, but that tells you that he’s good enough to beat you. But we did contain him,” Frye said.

Chicago scored twice in the first six minutes of the second half, including three plays into the third quarter when Burke Moser threw to Carroll over the middle for a 69-yard scoring play.

Estep answered that score with a 66-yard kickoff return for Centre. Hayes nearly reached the end zone once more when he ran to the 1 on fourth-and-3 from the 20, and Nolan Coulter ran in from a yard out.

The Colonels are two-thirds of the way through a tough three-game stretch, which concludes with this Saturday’s game at Hendrix (3-0, 0-0).

“We knew this stretch — Washington, Chicago and Hendrix — was going to be a telling sign for us,” Frye said. “If we can finish off this, then we’ll get a nice break.”

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