Newsted trying to continue tradition built by Erle Bennett at Centralia

(MGN Online)

CENTRALIA --- How do you replace a legend?

You don't.

How do you ease the pain during the transition?

Just win, baby.

"We're doing really well," Centralia head coach Jim Newsted said. "We're really excited about what we're seeing right now, it's looking good."

That's what you'd call an understatement. The beat goes on. Or to put it another way, the beat-ings go on.

The Centralia Panthers are off to a 4-0 start, they've outscored their opponents 189-33, they're ranked No. 2 in the KRCG Mid-Missouri Power Poll for Small Schools, and they're No. 6 in the state in Class 2.

This is nothing new, really. But this year, the Panthers are doing it without Erle Bennett calling the shots --- for the first time since 1994.

Bennett retired last year after 22 seasons at the Centralia, where he won 206 games --- including an eye-popping 70 straight in the regular season from 2005-12. The Panthers won the state championship in 2003, finished second in 2002 and in 2013, Bennett was inducted into the Missouri Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame.

No small shoes to fill.

"I told the kids when I started (as head coach) that it's not really a new era, because it's the same school, it's the same program, there's just a different leader," Newsted said. "The tradition has not changed, it's just kind carried over ... I'm taking over the tradition he installed.

"It's like a senior class coming through, then you get a new senior class taking over and you keep doing the same thing."

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