Road weary Red Devils return home, finally

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Central has spent first five games at opponents’ fields

By Mark Clark

It is homecoming week and the Central High Red Devils will be coming home for only the second time this season. After starting the season in Atlanta against Mays High in the C1N Alabama vs. Georgia Classic, the Red Devils played their only home game of the season so far in the second week against Meridian (Miss.) High. They spent the last three weeks on the road against Smiths Station High, Prattville High and Opelika High.

Still, even with a majority of unfriendly confines in which to compete, the Red Devils have pieced together an unbeaten record and ascended to the No. 1 spot in the Alabama Sports Writers Association Class 7A football poll. The most recent victory came last Friday night in Opelika where the Red Devils shutout their oldest rival – the Opelika Bulldogs – 28-0.

“We are finally going to get to play at home again. We really don’t know that feels right now. We’ve only played one game at home and that was three weeks ago,” Central coach Jamey DuBose said after his team’s victory over Opelika.

Before the Red Devils leave the turf of Wayne Trawick Field in Garrett-Harrison Stadium, the team will become familiar with their home playing surface. Central will be at home for the next three weeks beginning with this week’s homecoming contest with Park Crossing, a Class 6A team from Montgomery with a 3-2 record. This week’s game will mark the first meeting between the two schools. Park Crossing was established as a team in 2014 and has not had a losing season. Its best season was 2016 when it went 13-1 before losing in the semifinals to Opelika that year 41-23. Park Crossing lost last weekend to Sidney Lanier High 35-28. It lost its season opener to Central region foe R.E. Lee 26-15.

Following its game with Park Crossing, Central will remain home for contests against Enterprise High and R.E. Lee High before traveling to Montgomery to face Jeff Davis High. The Red Devils will then return home to play Auburn High in its regular season finale.

With its win over Opelika, Central improved to 5-0 overall and is 2-0 in Class 7A Region 2 play. Its victory over Opelika was Central’s first game of the season that was played without a running clock in the second half. In its first three games, the officials called for a running clock in the final quarter. Against Prattville, the entire second half was played with a running clock.

“It was good to see us challenged for a whole game. We haven’t played a game until tonight when there wasn’t a running clock in the second half. Opelika’s record may not show it, but that is the best 1-4 team I have ever played. They are well-coached. I think they had a good game play against us, but our conditioning got them in the second half. I expect you will see Opelika go deep into the playoffs this season,” DuBose said of the Bulldogs.

Central did not get on the Bulldog Stadium scoreboard until 4:05 remained in the first quarter. Arkansas commit A’Montae Spivey shouldered the bulk of the yardage on a 65-yard march that took four plays to reach the end zone. Spivey fumbled on the second play of the drive after a five-yard run, but Central’s Jackson Meeks recovered to keep the Red Devils rolling. Spivey ran six yards with his next carry and then ended the drive with a 40-yard run for the points. Noah Pell’s extra-point kick gave Central a 7-0 lead.

Central added another touchdown in the second quarter to take a 14-0 advantage to the locker room at halftime. A 59-yard drive took two plays for Central to reach the end zone. On the first play, Tucker Melton hit EJ Williams on a 58-yard pass play to the Opelika 1. On the next play, Joseph McKay ran in for the touchdown with 2:19 left in the half.

Central had a chance to put points on the scoreboard on the drive preceding the second touchdown, but came up short when it decided to go for a first down on fourth-and-three from the Opelika 10. Spivey was dropped for a loss on the play, which proved to be one of the Bulldog defense’s best plays of the night.

But, it was Central’s defense that shined from the start. On the game’s first offensive play, Opelika lost a receiver on a hard hit on an attempted pass play. When the half ended, Opelika’s offense had 14 yards rushing on 15 carries and only 16 passing yards. When the night ended, Opelika managed 53 yards rushing on 29 attempts and 32 passing yards for a total of 85 yards in all.

“When you play defense like that, your offense can take time to find its way against opponents. Our defense has played well all year. The starters on defense have not allowed a point since Mays scored early in the first game of the season,” DuBose said.

The Red Devils put the game away with a pair of third quarter touchdown runs by Spivey who had his best night of the season with 146 yards on 17 carries with three TDs.

Central went 82 yards with its first possession of the second half in six plays. LSU commit Peter Parrish hit on passes of 47 and 25 yards during the drive, the first to Drake Holloway and the second one to Williams. Spivey ran it in from three yards out with 9:32 left in the quarter. Pell’s kick made the score 21-0.

Central took 10 plays to cover 93 yards with its second possession of the third quarter to gain a 28-0 advantage. Spivey began the march with runs of eight and 16 yards. Melton had runs of 11 and 13 yards during the drive. Spivey ran the last three times in the drive for 33 yards, including the final 26 yards into the end zone with 2:49 left in the quarter. The drive ate away nearly seven minutes of the quarter.

There was no scoring in the fourth quarter.

Central‘s offense finished the night with 447 total yards, 274 rushing yards and 173 passing yards. In addition to Spivey’s 146 rushing yards, McKay had 83 yards on 15 carries with a touchdown. Williams had two catches for 83 yards and Holloway added another 48 on two catches. Tommy Vickers had one catch for 29 yards in the contest.

Kickoff against Park Crossing is set for 8 p.m. ET tomorrow night at Garrett-Harrison Stadium.

Highlights: Through five games, Spivey has more rushing yards than Central’s five opponents combined. Spivey has 475 yards on 51 carries to Central’s opponents’ 419 yards on 181 carries. Overall, Central’s offense has posted 1,985 total yards – 1,032 rushing yards and 953 passing yards. Central’s opponents have 860 total yards – 419 rushing yards and 441 passing yards. Melton has completed 15 of 19 passes for 519 yards with four TDs. Parrish is 29 of 44 for 332 yards with a TD. Neither quarterback has recorded an interception. Williams leads the team in receiving with 14 catches for 332 yards with three TDs.