Tommy hicks: Chemistry, talent make Central special

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The worst part is the waiting.

Central Red Devil football fans have talked of this moment, wished for this moment, anticipated this moment since spring football practice last year. There has always been something special about this team, something that indicated — dare it be said? — a state championship was possible for this year’s group.

The possibility is now but days away, the Red Devils set to take the field next Wednesday night at Auburn’s Jordan-Hare Stadium against the Thompson Warriors of Alabaster. Or, as they are commonly known these days — that team that has Tua’s brother as quarterback.

Central and Thompson were the top two rated teams in the Alabama Sports Writers Association’s final Class 7A poll, with the Red Devils garnering 25 of the first-place votes and Thompson getting the lone other first-place nod.

The team that will forever carry the billing as the best 7A team in the state for the 2018 season will be decided, as it should be, on Pat Dye Field next Wednesday.

Just a few more days. The wait seems as long as waiting for Santa to arrive. Central fans are hoping the present of a state championship awaits their favorite team.

Regardless, this has been, and will remain forever, a special team, filled with talented players, a strong coaching staff and a chemistry that brings all the other factors together. If the final score doesn’t fall in Central’s favor next week, there will be disappointment along with a bit of what-if? bemoaning but the character, excitement and accomplishments generated by this year’s team will always shine through when the season is recalled weeks, months and years down the road.

Certainly, the title will not simply be handed over, and the players and coaches, who have earned their way to this point, wouldn’t want that to be the case. Facing the team that was rated alongside it as the best team in the state in their classification is exactly how the Red Devils — how everyone who enjoys prep football in this state — wanted to see the title claimed.

And it should be a doozy.

Some comparisions:

Central quarterback Peter Parrish is headed to LSU; Thompson quarterback Tauulia Tagovailoa, is following in his brother Tua’s footsteps and heading to Alabama.

Thompson head coach Mark Freeman is 33-12 in four seasons at the school and he has 18 years of experience as a head coach. Central’s Jamey DuBose is 53-9 in five seasons in Phenix City and he has been a head coach for 11 seasons.

While the offenses for both teams get a lot of attention, the defenses hold their own on both teams. Central’s defense has produced five shutouts this season in posting a 13-0 record, including shut outs in their first two playoff games. Thompson’s defense has one shutout this season and has faced several high-powered offensive opponents, including Hoover, the only team that placed a blemish on the Warriors’ 11-1 record this year. Thompson avenged that loss in last week’s semifinal game at Hoover.

Central will be another high-scoring opponent the Warriors must try to corral. The Red Devils have outscored their first 13 opponents 526-101, an average of more than 40 points an outing while allowing just more than a touchdown and extra point per game. Thompson is outscoring its opponents 444-211, an average of 37 points of offense a game while allowing 17.5. And Central likely has the best offense the Warriors have seen all season. Of course, the same is probably true in reverse, Thompson being the most talented offense Central will have faced this season.

In effect, this game will probably come down to the one aspect of Central’s game that has carried the team through spring practice, summer workouts, fall drills and 13 previous wins this season — it’s chemistry. No doubt, the talent — and there’s plenty of this roster, which can also be said of Thompson — plays a huge role in what the Red Devils have accomplished thus far. But add to that the chemistry and desire of this team and that’s a game-changer. That’s what builds championships.

Will this be a championship season? You only have a few more days to wait to discover that answer.

It will be, and already has been, a special season, regardless of the outcome of Wednesday’s game. A Blue Trophy would make it all the more special though, that’s for sure.

Tommy Hicks, a Phenix City native, has covered sports in Alabama for more than 40 years. Contact him at