By Mark Clark
The Central High Red Devils were on fire Saturday as they entered the elimination portion of the Hoover City Elite 7 on 7 competition. Much to their dismay, the Red Devils’ flame got doused by heavy rain which ended the event prematurely.
Central had defeated both Evangel Christian (La.) and Daphne before lightning and rain made the tournament impossible to complete. Central was lining up for its first play against Spanish Fort in the semifinals when the weather became uncooperative. Hoover was about to play Mallard Creek (N.C.) in the other semifinal game.
“We did good in the tournament. We made it to the semis before the rain caused the rest of the event to be canceled. We won our pool with a 6-1-1 record. When it had to be canceled, they named us all co-champions,” Central coach Jamey DuBose said.
Central was the No. 3 seed in the elimination round. The top eight teams received a bye after pool play was done. Mallard Creek was the No. 1 seed, Spanish Fort was No. 2 and Hoover was No. 5 overall of the teams to make the semifinals.
Central opened the 7 on 7 by winning its first game, Gadsden City 30-2. Its second game ended in an 11-11 tie with Prattville. Central then defeated Clay-Chalkville 24-12 and Niceville (Fla.) 29-21.
Central and Prattville were tied for their pool’s lead with 3-0-1 records as the first day ended. On the second day, Central disposed of three more opponents – Evangel Christian 29-26, Alexandria (Va.) 25-13 and Daphne 19-9. Central was defeated by Opelika 29-16.
“We played better after the second day because we had a good team meeting before the final day. The kids told each other what their expectations for the upcoming season were and some stood up to make their feelings about how they had played so far known. I think that really brought them together as a team. They came out on Saturday and played probably the best they have played this summer in a 7 on 7. We played well in Auburn, but did not in Tuscaloosa. We finished well here,” DuBose said.
After sitting out the first games on Saturday with their bye, the Red Devils faced Evangel Christian the second time in the competition and won 25-6. Central then had to defeat Daphne for a second time and did so 26-3. The Red Devils outscored their opponents 234-132 overall. On the last day, Central outscored its opponents 51-9, allowing one touchdown.
The final records for the four teams in the semifinals were Mallard Creek and Spanish Fort 10-1, Central 9-1-1 and Hoover 9-2.
Central and Hoover will open up their 2019 high school football seasons on August 23 at Montgomery’s Cramton Bowl. The two teams have met twice with Hoover winning both games. Hoover – then Berry High – beat Central 21-14 in 1978 in the Red Devils’ first-ever playoff game. The two teams met to start the 2016 season in Cramton Bowl where Hoover won 23-7. Both teams are ranked in recent preseason National high school football polls. Hoover is ranked higher, but Central is the defending Class 7A State Champion.