Central loses in semis for third straight season
Nov. 30, 2017

By Mark Clark

Ouch, this one hurt the most.

McGill-Toolen High’s Bryceson Massey got his fingertips on just enough of Zach Johnson’s extra point kick in overtime to give his team a 27-26 victory over the Red Devils and put his team in the Dec. 6 Class 7A title game against Hoover High. And, Massey’s heroic effort ended Central High’s football season for the third consecutive year.

“It hurts. I don’t know. I don’t know... I’m proud of our kids. I’m proud of how they played. They had a great year. It’s my fault and I have to figure it out. And, I haven’t done a very good job of that now. You can’t be here three years in a row and to come up short. Going undefeated and all that stuff is great, but we’re here to win championships at Central and championships is what we’ve got to have. I have to figure this out,” Central coach Jamey DuBose said after the season-ending loss to the Yellow Jackets.

McGill-Toolen, which had never reached the championship game before 2015, has beaten Central each of the last three seasons – 2015 by a 26-21 score and 35-21 last season in addition to this season’s overtime victory. The Red Devils are now 1-4 against the Yellow Jackets.

Massey’s blocked kick, his first of the season, came immediately following one of the most athletic plays for a touchdown of the season. On second-and-goal at the 13-yardline, an errant snap sent Central quarterback Peter Parrish scrambling to pick up the loose ball and to avoid a heavy McGill-Toolen rush. Parrish went to his right and was at the sideline when he released a pass to the front of the end zone to Justyn Ross. Ross hauled in the ball between defenders for what potentially was the tying touchdown.

However, on the extra point attempt, Massey ran in for the block unobstructed.

“Ross made a tremendous play and Peter made an even better play. You know...I don’t know, we had a run through on the right side it looked like. Their guys believed they could make the block and they did and we are right back where we were last year. We’ll have to go back this offseason and figure this thing out,” DuBose said.

Central had a chance to win the game in overtime – and appeared to have done that. After McGill-Toolen’s Chase Mahler kicked a 23-yard field goal to tie the contest at 20-20, the Red Devils drove from their own 20 to the McGill-Toolen 13 with 23 seconds to play. Johnson entered the game and nailed a 31-yard field goal – an apparent game-winning kick in regulation. Central’s celebration after the kick was cut short when the kick was waved off with the clock showing 22 seconds as game officials granted a timeout called by McGill-Toolen coach Earnest Hill. Johnson’s second attempt was wide left and the teams went into overtime.

McGill-Toolen scored on its second play of the overtime with a 10-yard pass from Sheldon Layman to Bo Hightower. Mahler added the extra point kick for the deciding margin of victory for the Yellow Jackets.

The fourth ranked Yellow Jackets played even on the scoreboard with No. 1 ranked Central in regulation. McGill-Toolen took the early lead with a 43-yard touchdown pass from Layman to Zach Workman to cap a 95-yard scoring drive with its second possession. The Yellow Jackets led 7-0 as the first quarter closed.

Central’s first offensive possession went from it 20 to the McGill-Toolen 35 before three losses on runs forced the Red Devils to punt. Its second possession tied the game. Central drove from its 20 to the end zone in 14 plays – seven were runs by A’montae Spivey for 58 yards, including the final seven yards for the touchdown with 11:35 left in the half.

The Yellow Jackets next possession was a short one, but resulted in points. McGill-Toolen’s Chris Davis returned the kickoff following the Central touchdown 52 yards to the Red Devils’ 38. Layman got his second touchdown pass of the night on a 7-yard toss to Turner McLaughlin with 7:06 remaining in the second quarter.

Central fumbled on its ensuing possession, but got the ball back one play after the error when Damon Jones intercepted a Layman pass and returned it 47 yards to the Central 49. A 15-yard penalty gave Central the ball at its 34, where it began its second scoring drive. 

It took 12 plays before A’montae Spivey scored on another 7-yard run. The half ended with the score tied.

McGill-Toolen opened the second half with a 13-play drive that resulted in a 26-yard field goal by Mahler to give the Yellow Jackets a 17-14 advantage. 

A short punt to end Central’s next possession gave McGill-Toolen another short field, starting at its own 45. Eight plays later, the Yellow Jackets were stopped on fourth-and-goal from less than a yard from the Central end zone.

The Red Devils drove the length of the field in six plays to take the lead for the only time at 20-17. Jamaar Spivey had a 74-yard run to get Central to the McGill-Toolen 4. On the next play, Parrish scored to make the score 20-17. The extra point kick was wide.

McGill-Toolen tied the game at 20-20 with 5:32 remaining on a 23-yard field goal by Mahler. That’s when Central took over and drove from its 20 to the McGill-Toolen 13 for the missed field goal with 22 seconds to play.

“I told the kids this hurts, but they re champions no matter what the scoreboard says. They played hard all year. They did everything I asked them to do. This is football game. In life, these guys are champions. That’s all that matters. I’m proud of every one of them. I’m proud of what they have done for this community. I’m proud of what they have done for their school. I don’t judge any team or anybody on a game. We’ll figure this thing out. Three years in a row the kids have done everything we have asked. I can’t get them past that hump right now. I don’t know. It’s not them, its me. They’ve done everything they’ve been asked. I have to do a better job. I have to figure this thing out,” DuBose said.

While Central failed to win the battle of special teams, it did play one of its best games of the season on offense and defense. The Red Devils totaled 450 yards against the Yellow Jackets. Jamaar Spivey ended the night with 112 yards on nine attempts. Parrish had 104 yards on 17 carries and threw for 110 yards while completing 13 of 17 passes. A’montae Spivey, who did not run the ball in the second half, ran 14 times for 90 yards with a pair of touchdowns. Ross, whose final catch of his senior season was for a touchdown, had five receptions for 73 yards.

Central ended the season at 11-1 overall and was the Region 2 champion for the fourth season in a row.