I would have to say I was very fortunate to be a sports writer when Central High won each of its state championship football titles. A lot of folks cannot say that. In fact, I do not know of any who wrote about the 1993 title and then got to write about the 2018 title games. If there are any of you out there, I sure would like to talk to you about your experience.
Not only did I write about the title games, but I wrote about each of the games in both of those seasons. I probably would not have had that opportunity had I not had a falling out with another newspaper for which I was doing stringer work earlier in my career. I am thankful for that falling out. That small tiff had to do with whether a player should have been named to a postseason all-star squad that newspaper had put together. I was right and the newspaper was wrong. The newspaper saw its error and made the change. I, however, never changed my mind about writing for that newspaper again – though in 2006 it almost talked me into returning to work with it on a semi-fulltime basis. In the end, I declined and continued a streak of games I am proud to say is now at 336 after the 2018 season. If it never goes any further, I made a pretty good run.
I can admit now that I was about to call it quits after the first game next season – if not before. I have traveled to a lot of places and it is time for me to slow down a bit. Thankfully, Meridian High of Meridian, Miss., has decided to not play Central next season even though the two schools have a contract in place. I hope nothing changes that decision and I hope Central does not find a team even further away to play. I would have to rethink my decision to continue my streak.
Anyway, enough of that, I wanted to go back and compare this year’s state championship team to 1993’s title team. The two teams are very similar whether you believe it or not.
Back in 1993, Central had a team that refused to give up. Yes, it lost a game to Opelika 22-21, but you never saw that team quit – ever. You never saw the 2018 team quit. A couple of weeks ago I compared the semifinal games each team played. Both trailed in those games and both pulled out victories to advance to the state championship game.
Personally, I feel the 1993 team pulled off the bigger comeback with a last-play touchdown in overtime that had their season in the balance. The 2018 team could have failed to comeback in regulation and still had a chance to win in overtime. Both were without a doubt exciting finishes. Both were worthy victories that should have sent them to the championships in their respective seasons.
In the championship games, both teams played like they had during the regular season and in the playoffs. The 1993 team did not seem to have a game all season in which it had an easy victory. The championship victory over West End mirrored that season. The 2018 team – for the most part – never had a game in which there was a doubt it would win. The championship victory over Thompson mirrored this past season. Both teams had great offenses and great defenses – and I believe you could switch both years and both would have still won the state titles. There is no doubt in my mind that is so.
The players from both teams are where I see the most difference. The 1993 team, like I said earlier, did not have an ounce of quit in it. It fought and scrapped for every yard in every win it collected. The 2018 team had no quit in it either. The 2018 team is filled with players that colleges are drooling over. If the 2018 players had played in 1993, they would have been just as coveted by college teams. If the 1993 players had played in 2018, they would have been bigger stars than they were. I think only Shedrick Dixon received what most folks would consider a decent scholarship offer – to Troy State before it was a D1 school. This year’s team has three players who will play for Power 5 teams next season – Peter Parrish (LSU), A’Montae Spivey (Arkansas) and Ray Thornton (Clemson). You can bet there are others waiting for scholarship offers from Power 5 schools in the not too distant future.
Over the last few days, I have watched the championship games over a couple of times. I would love to see these two squads go at each other at their best. The 2018 team would appear to have the advantage with its size and depth. The 1993 team was a close-knit group of guys who did not know the meaning of quit and had great speed. It would be one heck of a game. My prediction? We will let that go.
That will never happen – thankfully. I would rather fans argue for years to come over which was the better team. They were both remarkable. The 1993 set the standard for future teams and finally saw its efforts rewarded in 2018 when the current Red Devils became state champions. The 2018 team is the standard bearer for the future Central teams now. It is its turn to hand off the mantle of champion. Hopefully, it will not be 25 years from now before that happens again. I know my streak will not last that long.
Mark Clark is a local sports writer for The Citizen of East Alabama.