There was no quit in the Central Cyclones on Saturday at Gutheridge Field.

The Cyclones scored two touchdowns in the final 2:30 to come away with a 44-39 win over the Yorkton Raiders in the Moose Jaw High School Football League semifinal.

The win sends Central into their first league final since 2011.

“This is unreal. I've been here three years, lost in this exact game every time, it's about time, it's exciting,” said senior running back Zach Hagerman after the emotional win for him and his team.

Central started slow in the game, trailing the Raiders 24-3 midway through the second quarter, but they battled back to within six points at halftime and set up a wild, back-and-forth second half.

“It was an emotional roller coaster,” said head coach Colin Belsher. “When I talked to the kids at halftime, I said it truly comes down to how hard you work and the heart that you put in the game and I echoed that after the game that this had nothing with us coaches calling plays, it had everything to do with heart and what they left on the field.”

The star of the game for the Cyclones was slotback Jonah Branning, who scored five touchdowns, a two-point conversion and added an interception and sack on defence as he was all over the field during the game. Branning finished with 131 yards rushing on nine carries and 92 yards receiving on six catches.

“It was definitely one of my best games, but I wouldn't have done anything without my teammates that's for sure,” said Branning, who scored Central's final two touchdowns, including the game-winner on a two-yard run with just 16 seconds left on the clock.

Central was trailing 39-38 heading into the final drive with 1:07 to go on the clock. They quickly and efficiently moved the ball down the field to set up the game winning score with Branning making a big catch and a long run to get within striking distance before quarterback Ryan Reidy ran it to the two-yard line to set up the score.

“There was many emotions, many thoughts going into that final drive,” said Branning. “We were pretty confident... we had some worries that's for sure, but we just kept fighting and we got back in the game and came away with the victory.”

Yorkton had a number of chances to close out the game, including an interception by Matthew Mandziuk that gave them the ball with just over a 1:30 to go, but Central's defence was able to stop them on a pair of third downs to get the ball back for their offence.

“That was ridiculous, that was one of the best high school football games I've seen in a long, I can't think of too many better ones,” said Yorkton head coach Roby Sharpe.

“Of course the guys are choked, we had the game and we fumbled the snap, but that's how football works, you can watch football any Sunday and see the most bizzare thing happen. The game was over, we make that first down with a half yard, we kill the clock and the game is over and we fumble the snap. What can you say?”

It ended up being the Cyclones defence making the stops when they needed to win the game late, including Aidan Baillie sacking Yorkton quarterback Nick Payne on the final play.

The Raiders' ground game got them started off on the right foot as they took the opening drive right down the field for a six-yard touchdown run by Caleb Bymak.

Yorkton employed a triple-option ground attack that Central struggled to stop, leading to 143 yards on 25 carries for Bymak, while fellow tailback Brody Popowich added 12 carries for 108 yards.

Central used a balanced attack to get back into the game after trailing 24-3 with just over five minutes to go in the first half. Branning caught an 18-yard touchdown from Reidy and then took a hand-off 47 yards for a score with 28 seconds left in the half to give Central a big boost heading into the break.

The Cyclones tied the game late in the third quarter when Reidy dropped a perfect 51-yard pass into slotback Aidan Coleman.

Reidy finished 13-of-22 for 233 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. His counterpart, Payne, went 8-of-14 for 158 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions.

Central will now meet Peacock in the first all-Moose Jaw league final in four years. They square off this Saturday at 1:00pm at Gutheridge Field.

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