Mark Clark: Red Devils No. 11, Ross No. 7 in early predictions

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Want to see the eleventh best high school football team in the country? Well, just head on up to Garrett-Harrison Stadium this evening for the Central High spring game against Eufaula High. USA Today recently released its “2019 way-too-early preseason Top 25 high school football rankings” poll of teams around the nation and the Red Devils made the list at No. 11.

This is just the second time the Red Devils have made it into the poll. The last time was back in 1994, the year after Central won the Alabama High School Athletic Association’s Class 6A state title with a 12-7 victory over West End High of Birmingham. Here it is a quarter of a century later and the year after Central won the AHSAA Class 7A title and once more the Red Devils have gained some national attention. The Red Devils are coming off a 52-7 victory in the Class 7A title game against Thompson High. Last season, as the team went 14-0, there was no attention in the national poll until the season was over. Central got ranked in the Top 50 – far below where they will start this season in the poll.

But, are the Red Devils really that good? Do they deserve a Top 25 ranking? According to Central coach Jamey DuBose, everyone will have to wait to see.

“I do not put a lot of stock into polls. They are great for the fans and it’s always good to get attention, but they mean nothing if you do not get the job done. The ranking is really an honor for what last year’s team accomplished. It is up to this year’s team to keep that going,” DuBose said when asked how he felt about his team getting ranked so high.

Here is what USA Today had to say about Central:

“Why them: There could be major change coming to the Central team as Peter Parrish, one of the top dual-threat quarterbacks in the nation, graduates. If the next quarterback is one who’s already on the team, it would likely be a pro-style quarterback who has yet to prove he’s at the caliber of Parrish – maybe Tucker Melton, the No. 36 player in Alabama.

But the team has strengths outside the QB position. E.J. Williams is a top-20 receiver and rated the third-best player in the state. Javion Cohen has proven himself a capable offensive lineman, rated No. 21 in Alabama. Overall, the team has five players ranked in the top 40 of the Alabama high school 2020 class.

The Red Devils are 35-3 over the last three years under head coach Jamey DuBose, and they don’t shy away from scheduling tough opponents – according to, they will start the season against Hoover, one of the top teams in Alabama. That game should be telling of if Central is legit or not.”

All of these words sound good, but do not expect to see Central at its best in its spring game. There are about 160 kids on the spring roster and Dubose expects all of them to see action against Eufaula tonight. He wants to see how they play and he wants to reward them for their work during spring training. So, if Central wins, okay. If Central loses, okay. That is how DuBose will look at the game.

“I have already seen what I need to see from our team. I know what we are doing well and I know where we need work. We have a whole summer to get better. When the season starts, that is when I want us to be playing well,” DuBose said.

Playing well begins on August 24, 2019 in Montgomery’s Cramton Bowl against Hoover High. The two teams have met to start the 2016 season when the Bucs beat Central 23-7. In 1978, when Hoover was known as Berry High, Central lost in it’s first-ever playoff game 21-14. So, Central will be looking to take its first win over the Bucs.

In another rankings list, Phenix City’s Justyn Ross, now at Clemson and a national champion in his first season, is listed among players destined to be selected in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft. His ranking is based on how well he played during his freshman season for the Tigers – and especially his play during last year’s College Football Playoffs against Notre Dame and Alabama. Ross caught 12 passes for 301 yards with three touchdowns in the playoffs. His photo appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated’s national championship commemorative edition. For his first season overall, Ross had 46 catches for 1,000 yards with nine touchdowns. His best game was in the national championship game against Alabama when he caught six passes for 153 yards, scored a touchdown and had a long reception of 74 yards in a 44-16 rout of the Crimson Tide.

It is very early to make either of these two predictions. We will all have to wait to see if either prediction comes true. We will know about the Central prediction when the 2019 football season begins in August and ends next December. As for Ross, well, the former Central High Red Devils receiver has at least two more years of college football with the Clemson Tigers before he is eligible to be drafted into the professional league.

Mark Clark is a local sports writer for 

The Citizen of East Alabama.