Okay, the Central High Red Devils had seen this all before. A struggle against a big and physical R.E. Lee High offense that forced the Central defense to “get off the bus and wake up” in the second half in order to capture its seventh win of the season. It happened two seasons back in a late season game with the Generals.
As New York Yankee great Yogi Berra said, “It was deja vous all over again.”
Central’s defense came alive in the second half in a 53-26 victory over R.E. Lee in a game that was eerily similar to Central’s 2017 52-30 victory over the Generals. In that game, Central had to defeat the Generals with a strong second half defensive effort. In that win, Central used its running game to beat R.E. Lee’s passing game and cat-quick quarterback. And there was a memorable catch by a Central receiver who was headed to Clemson to play his future football.
Central battled the Generals to take a far to close 25-20 halftime lead as the two traded touchdowns with neither taking a real advantage. That prompted Central coach Jamey DuBose to make a promise as his team headed for the locker room, “We will make some adjustments for the second half and make sure everyone is on the same page. It is time for our defense to get off the bus and wake up.”
And after the Generals took their first possession of the second half and drove for a go-ahead touchdown at 26-25, the Red Devil defense did as its coach said. The defense held R.E. Lee’s offense scoreless while the Central offense ran up 28 unanswered points to claim the Region 2 victory that kept its team on course to win its sixth title in six years under DuBose.
“We found a way to win and that is what is important. We fought to the end. We had some problems. W made some stupid mistakes at the end, but we are still just one win away from winning the region for the sixth year in a row,” DuBose said in an interview after the game.
After the Generals scored what would be their final points of the day on a 49-yard pass, Central’s secondary held R.E. Lee to 3-of-17 passing the rest of the game. In the first half, the Generals were 11-of-16 with touchdown passes of 44 and 30 yards.
Trailing 26-25, Central’s offense took its ensuing possession and marched 65 yards in nine plays to regain the lead at 32-26 with a 3-yard touchdown run by Joseph McKay. McKay had 20 carries for 105 yards and three touchdowns for the game.
On its following possession, Central went 78 yards in four plays to up its lead to 39-26 on a 51-yard pass play from Tucker Melton to EJ Williams. Williams, a Clemson commit, was hit as he touched the pass, but caught the bobbled pass, broke free from a General defensive back and ran to the end zone for the points. The play was one that compared to a one-handed catch former Red Devil and current Clemson star Justyn Ross made along the sideline for a touchdown in the 2017 game which was also a mid-day game on a Saturday at Cramton Bowl.
Late in the fourth quarter, Central’s defense gave the offense the football at the Generals 28 after holding the R.E. Lee offense to four incomplete passes. Two runs by Zion Morris put the ball over the goal line for a 46-26 Central lead.
One play after the kickoff after Morris’ touchdown, Central had the ball at the Generals 41 on a Gerald Palmer interception. After a one-yard run, Morris made the most exciting run of the season as he ran to the right side, turned up field, leapt over a Generals defender, dodged a couple of other defenders and stepped into the end zone. However, the play was negated by a penalty for Morris jumping over the defender which is not allowed in high school games. But on the very next play, Dexter Wright broke through the middle of the line and raced untouched for Central’s final touchdown on a 40-yard run.
Central scored twice in the first half on runs of three and one yards by McKay, a 33-yard interception return by Jadon Richardson and a 29-yard field goal by Noah Pell.
Central ran for 338 yards for the day. In addition to McKay’s 105 yards, Morris had 100 yards on 11 carries and Wright had 73 yards on five attempts. The Red Devils also passed for 170 yards for a total of 508 total yards for the day.
Central is home tomorrow night for the final time during the regular season for a Region 2 contest with Jeff Davis High. It is Senior Night for the Red Devils. Kickoff is set for 8 p.m. ET.