Winning state titles is exciting – at first. That is what Central High Red Devils coach Jamey DuBose said a day after his team did just that on Pat Dye Field in Jordan-Hare Stadium at Auburn University. The Red Devils defeated Thompson 52-7 to collect the team’s first state championship title since 1993.
That is a long time between state titles. In perspective, that is 25 years ago, or 295 games, played by Central. It is a very long time.
However, since the Red Devils won the title last Wednesday evening, it is not so long ago now.
Like DuBose said, winning a state title is exciting at first. Everyone celebrates. Your community celebrates. Then it is over. For Central, says DuBose, the celebration ends after a month. Then the matter of next season begins. The workouts begin. The planning begins. The next building block of the program must be readied.
“We’re going to enjoy the title for a month. Then we start working on next season. That’s how it is. It’s exciting to win a title for a little while for returning players. We will be the defending state champions when next season begins and we want to work on winning the next one,” DuBose said.
His words sound good. They are encouraging for the program that has waited so long between title trophies. Too bad DuBose will not be able to enjoy winning this year’s title as much as everyone else.
There is a burden which comes with being the head coach of a successful program. He has to be preparing every day for next year. His job depends on the attitudes of 14 to 18-year-olds. He is part coach, part surrogate father and even a babysitter at times. No, it is not a glamorous job most times. DuBose does not mind those jobs. He does not enjoy that part of his job, but he does not mind doing it. It gives him a sense of pride when he sees young men mature into responsible people. Some grow to be friends and colleagues.
DuBose’s biggest burden is worrying about what went wrong last season when the team did not make it to the title game. For DuBose, he has had to worry about the previous four seasons. That’s every season DuBose has been coach of the Red Devils. He came to Phenix City with high expectations. He “promised” championship titles would come if the players were willing to put in the work. He has felt the players have done their part the last four seasons. His promise seemed only hollow words – in his heart and mind. It probably hurt DuBose more – well, at least as much – as it hurt the graduating seniors from those four teams. He wondered what it was that he had not done to see that the promise was kept.
The truth is he did nothing wrong. The endings for those four seasons just happened. But, DuBose felt his team – the Red Devils – should have won the first year he was here. That team lost in the second round to his old championship team – Prattville High. Then the next three years, the Red Devils lost in the semifinals to McGill-Toolen High. He felt his teams should have won all three of those games. And the naysayers agreed with DuBose. While DuBose held his thoughts inside, the naysayers did not. They ran their mouths everywhere – restaurants, grocery stores, even churches. They said Central was over-hyped, that they were not as good as billed and that Central was doomed to never get past the semifinals. The same words were being said by those same naysayers as this season went along. The words grew louder the closer Central made it to the semifinals.
Central’s run through the playoffs should have been more appreciated. They held Davidson High scoreless and won 46-0 while not playing at the Red Devils’ best. It is good to win 46-0 on a bad day. The Red Devils beat McGill-Toolen – yes, the team that had knocked Central from the playoffs in each of the previous three years – 14-0. Another shutout for the Red Devils’ defense. Another game where Central did not play its best. Another time naysayers should have appreciated a victory on an off night. And then Central beat Robert E. Lee 34-27 in the semifinals. Yes, Central had to stage a comeback to win the game. Again, Central was not at its best and won and should have been appreciated. And finally, Central beat Thompson 52-7 for the state title, Central was at its best on the biggest stage of the season. Now, everyone is celebrating – everyone, even the people who said it could not be done.
What is DuBose doing? Well, instead of spending the whole month celebrating, he is relaxing for the first time in five years and reflecting on the just passed season. He has finally been able to make his promise come true. How was it done? DuBose told his players to avoid any negativity around them. He asked them to get better every day as players, as students and as people. He asked them to do the one thing that had not been done the last four years – finish! That is what they did in Auburn last week – they finished. They finished with a win, with a state title. And DuBose celebrated with the team on the field. He then relaxed, reflected on the season and went back to work on next season.
Mark Clark is a local sports writer for The Citizen of East Alabama.