Central faces real rival this week

Sept. 28, 2017

By Mark Clark

Central High scored on its first eight offensive possessions and a punt return to put winless Smiths Station High out of its misery quickly last Friday night in what is billed as the annual Backyard Brawl between the two neighboring schools. The final score was 62-7 in the 26th meeting since 1992. Central leads the series against its local rival 21-5.

Now, the Red Devils must prepare to play their real rival this week – Opelika High. Opelika and Central have met 74 times previously since 1926 when the Red Devils began their football program. Central leads this series with 42 wins to 32 wins for the Bulldogs. The Red Devils have not defeated Opelika in Phenix City since 2010. All three of Central’s victories over Opelika since 2010 have been on the road at Bulldog Stadium. Opelika last won a home game in the series in 2014.

“The Opelika game, since I have been here, has been more of a rival game than Smiths Station. That’s how it goes sometimes when you have schools that are close in proximity. I would say of the three schools, Auburn, Opelika and Smiths, maybe the Opelika-Central game has been a lot bigger game of any of the three even though we have had more match-ups with Auburn than any of the three in the region and everything else. I kind of feel, after being in it, the Opelika-Central game has been a lot bigger rivalry,” DuBose said of this week’s opponent.

Central will enter the game with Opelika sporting a perfect 4-0 record and holding on to the No. 1 ranking in Class 7A. Opelika is 3-2 overall and enters the game after losing 19-14 to Benjamin Russell last week. Opelika has been in the Class 6A Top 10 all season, rising as high as No. 5.

Adding to this season’s rivalry, the Bulldogs have a new coach – Caleb Ross, the former coach at McGill-Toolen. Ross’ McGill-Toolen team eliminated Central from the Class 7A playoffs in each of the last two seasons by scores of 26-21 in 2015 and 35-21 last season. 

The Bulldogs and Red Devils have had two common opponents this season – Smiths Station and Auburn. Opelika defeated Smiths Station 51-0 in its season opener and lost 17-13 to Auburn in the second week. Central defeated Auburn 34-28 and Smiths Station 62-7.

“We have got to get better running the football if we want a chance to beat Opelika. I was proud of what we worked on and could show tonight, but we are going to have to run the football and control the ball and continue to play good solid defense,” DuBose said. “I’m proud of our defense. We are still playing solid with our ones and twos. We cannot turn the ball over and avoid penalties. Penalties kill you like they did us against Auburn. We’re going to have to play good clean football. We’ve got to start out strong and stay that way.

Central did not use its run game against Smiths Station as much as it has against previous opponents this season. DuBose said he wanted to take the opportunity to work on his team’s passing game against the Panthers. The work was successful.

Between Central’s two quarterbacks – Peter Parrish and Tucker Melton – the Red Devils combined for 12-of-17 passing for 222 yards and five touchdowns. Parrish was 7-of-10 for 143 yards with three TD tosses and Melton completed 5-for-7 passes for 79 yards with two TD throws.

Parrish got Central on the scoreboard first with a 9-yard touchdown pass to Justyn Ross. He then connected with Derrick Moore for his second TD pass on the second offensive possession for the Red Devils. Melton entered the game and threw a TD pass to Will Clanton. Parrish found Clanton for another touchdown pass on the next offensive possession and Melton ended the night’s touchdown passing with another one to Moore.

Ross, who caught three passes for 55 yards with a TD also returned a punt 43 yards for a touchdown. He had two punt returns for 53 yards on the night. The senior, who is considered the top prospect in the state, sat out the balance of the contest after his punt return touchdown with 10:04 remaining in the first half.

Clanton and Moore both joined Ross on the sideline before the third quarter was over. Clanton finished with four catches for 53 yards with his two TDs and Moore had two catches for 53 yards for two touchdowns.

Dominick Scott had two carries for 34 yards with two touchdowns against Smiths Station. Melton had a rushing touchdown as well.

Freshman Joseph McKay led Central runners with two carries for 67 yards, both in the second half on the Red Devils’ first scoring drive.

“We got reps for a lot of our guys tonight that were quality reps. We were able to play a lot of kids and they gained some experience that will help us as the season goes along. We escaped tonight without any injuries. That was good to see. We did what we could tonight to finish. It was a region game and we got a win. I’m proud of my guys. I’m proud of their guys finishing. It took a lot of guts to finish and to break through and score. Now, we’re ready to look to Opelika. We have to get ready,” DuBose said.

Smiths Station scored its first offensive points of the season with 4:04 remaining in the game when Alex Londano ran around left end and outran Central’s defenders on a 75-yard touchdown sprint. Tripp Vining kicked the extra point to make the final score 62-7.

Scoring Drives:

First Quarter
Central – Incomplete pass. Will Clanton 10-yard run. Peter Parrish 22-yard pass to Drake Holloway. Incomplete pass. Parrish 13-yard pass to Justyn Ross. Parrish 9-yard pass to Ross for touchdown, 6:46. (Zack Johnson kick). 7-0
Central – Parrish 33-yard pass to Ross. Incomplete pass. Parrish 23-yard pass to Derrick Moore for touchdown, 2:48. (Johnson kick). 14-0

Second Quarter
Central – Tucker Melton 14-yard pass to Clanton. Melton 9-yard pass to Clanton. Amontae Spivey 10-yard run. Melton 14-yard pass to Clanton for touchdown, 11:40. (Johnson kick). 21-0

Central – Ross 43-yard punt return for touchdown, 10:04. (Noah Pell kick). 28-0
Central – Parrish 19-yard run. Jamaar Spivey minus-1 yard run. Anthony Miles 11-yard run. 15-yard penalty on Central. Parrish 27-yard pass to J. Spivey. Parrish 16-yard pass to Clanton for touchdown, 6:03. (kick failed). 34-0
Central – Melton 12-yard pass to E.J. Williams. Incomplete pass. 5-yard penalty on Central. Melton 30-yard pass to Moore for touchdown, 3:10. (Pell kick). 41-0
Central – Following Malcolm Waller fumble recovery for Central. 11-yard penalty on Central. Melton 4-yard run. Dominick Scott 9-yard run for touchdown, 1:26. (Pell kick). 48-0

Third Quarter
Central – Incomplete pass. Joseph McKay 7-yard run. McKay 60-yard run. Melton 2-yard run for touchdown, 9:18. (Pell kick). 54-0
Central – Robert Marsh 5-yard run. Scott 18-yard run for touchdown, 4:50. (Pell kick). 62-0

Fourth Quarter
Smiths Station – Edward Payne 2-yard run. LC Harris 6-yard run. Matthew Turnbull minus-5 yard run. Alex Londano 75-yard run for touchdown, 4:04. (Tripp Vining kick). 62-7