Central-Phenix City football coach Woodrow Lowe keeps Red Devils focused on physical Opelika team

dmitchell@ledger-enquirer.comSeptember 13, 2012 

Last week's defeat of region foe Carver-Montgomery wasn't just any win for Central. It was a big win.

The Red Devils were underdogs in their own stadium against the then-No. 6 team in the state and were able to pull away for a 27-14 victory.

It was nice, Central coach Woodrow Lowe agreed, but it's a distant memory now.

"At this point in time, we've put Carver-Montgomery behind us," he said.

Instead, Central has turned its focus forward to a future that looks considerably brighter than it did prior to last Friday's win. The Red Devils are tied for the lead in Class 6A Region 3, and they are playing a team, Opelika (8 tonight in Opelika), that they've handled well in recent history, winning the previous three meetings by an average of more than 20 points.

Always a voice to quell rampant expectations, however, Lowe stressed his team's need to focus on the present.

"That's not on my mind," Lowe said when reminded about his team's recent dominance in the series. "This is high school football. Every year is not the same."

Wide receiver Traveon Samuel, who had a big game for the Red Devils last week, said that while the team does recognize its success in the matchup, it's not the focus.

"We think about it, but we don't worry about it too much," he said. "We're really just preparing for Opelika right now."

Getting ready for Opelika means getting ready for a physical game.

Lowe noted the Bulldogs' speed on defense, especially on the defensive line. Offensively, he said they would try to be physical up front, and run the football.

"We need a big game from our offensive and defensive lines," he said. "It starts up front. I don't care what lev

el, it starts up front."

The defensive front, and linebackers and secondary, for that matter, had a strong game last week, limiting Carver-Montgomery's Jeremy Johnson, one of the top quarterbacks in the state of Alabama.

The defense allowed just two fourth-quarter touchdown drives, but kept the opposing offense off the field for the majority of the game.

Defensive lineman Jaitlin Smith said the performance against a quarterback as strong as Johnson was definitely a confidence booster. It was important, however, that the unit not lose focus on the task at hand this week.

"It boosts confidence," he said, "but we can't get too confident. If we get too confident, that's when losses come. We've got to stay humble."

Offensively, as Lowe indicated, Central will require a strong effort from the men up front, players like Cameron Fraser and Jeremiah Payne, who helped keep quarterback Jamal Howard upright last week when he was in the game and opened holes for running back Deon Hall or receiver Samuel the rest of the time.

The unit was impressive, helping Samuel to display some versatility in the game when the passing game wasn't working. If it can be successful in that again this week, Lowe is confident about what Central can do.

"If we control both of those areas, we should stand a good chance," he said.

And the players know what a win in this game would mean. Not only would it give them a 3-0 record, it would make them 2-0 in a difficult region where every win is important.

"It's very important (to win this game)," Samuel said. "Because if we get this win tomorrow night against Opelika, we'll be in the driver's seat in the region."

A loss, however, would counteract some of the progress the team made last week. But even that isn't on Lowe's mind.

"We're not going to get caught up into that 'Jekyll and Hyde' mentality," he said. "The win that we got last week, we got that. And this is a different team, a different place. We aren't going to be beating ourselves up about if we're going to win or if we're not. We've just got to do what we do. We've got to execute.

"We've got to be able to play our game the way we do. To do that, you don't look in the stands. It's just about business. I told the kids that this is a business trip. This is a business trip, and we've got to take care of business when we get there."

David Mitchell, 706-571-8571

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