OPELIKA, Ala. -- There's a reason for all those days of practice leading up to gameday.
The Opelika Bulldogs felt they had a wonderful week getting ready for No. 10 Central-Phenix City, and it paid off with a resounding 37-7 victory at Bulldog Stadium Friday night.
The Devils, once flying high after a big victory in Week 2, lamented a lackluster set of practices, and paid the price in dropping to 2-1 overall, 1-1 in 6A Region 3 play.
"We didn't really have a good week of practice," running back Ryan Humphrey said. "We came out here and learned a lesson. We got a taste of what a real man is."
Opelika (2-1, 1-1) was dominant from start to finish, outgaining its guest 117-1 in total yards in the first quarter. Safety Stephen Roberts picked off Central quarterback Jamal Howard twice, the second of which was a 90-yard touchdown return to end the second half and give Opelika a 30-0 lead at the break.
"We did not play well in all areas of the game," Devils coach Woodrow Lowe said. "I take full responsibility for it. Totally different team (than last week)."
Star running back Deon Hall played, but he was severely hobbled by a foot injury. Other than a couple of nice kick returns, Hall was limited to three carries for six yards just a week after running for three touchdowns in the Devils' 27-14 upset of Carver-Montgomery.
"He's still recovering," Lowe said,"but you know, we've still got to make plays."
Jakell Mitchell scored two short touchdowns out of the Wildcat formation, and Opelika mixed in a counter attack with the spread offense to roll up 302 total yards, including 255 on the ground.
"The difference between us and them is they went for the tackle instead for the big hits," Humphrey said. "We've got to make some different arrangements and get ready for next week."
Central countered with 210 total yards, with 53 coming on its lone scoring play to with 2 minutes, 40 seconds remaining. Slippery sophomore Traveon Samuel leaped to handle a wayward snap and scampered the distance to snuff a shutout bid.
That was the only dark mark on Opelika's night, snapping a three-game losing streak to the Devils.
"I didn't expect it to go quite that way," said Opelika coach Brian Blackmon, the recipient of a water cooler bath in the closing minutes. "I'm not surprised at how well our kids played because their week of preparation was great."
Calvin Bryant and TJ Griffin also scored on the ground for Opelika.
Howard was 5-for-8 for 31 yards throwing the ball, adding 43 yards on 13 carries.
"We've got to come back, we've got to regroup," Lowe said. "We've got to find guys that are going to play and practice, and who wants to be there."
Humphrey insisted this would serve as a reality check for the Devils.
"There's going to be a real change," Humphrey said. "We're going to have a winning season regardless - I believe that. Every single time we win, we're going to look back to this day and we're going to see them in the playoffs. That's what I believe."
Central 0 0 0 7 --7
Opelika 14 16 7 0 --37
O--Jakell Mitchell 1 run (Justin Traylor kick) 7:26
O--TJ Griffin 15 run (Traylor kick). 5:26
O--Traylor 21 FG. Opelika 17, Central 0 9:55
O--Calvin Bryant 20 run (Traylor kick). 5:31
O-- 2nd - Stephen Roberts 88 interception return (kick failed). 0:00
O--Mitchell 2 run (Traylor kick). 6:28
C--Traveon Samuel 53 run (Chandler Chancellor kick). 2:40
Team records: Opelika 2-1, 1-1 6A-3; Central 2-1, 1-1