Red Devils staying grounded this time

Learned from loss to Opelika after big win

dmitchell@ledger-enquirer.comOctober 11, 2012 

Some members of the Central High football team admitted they may have gotten ahead of themselves following a win over Carver-Montgomery this season, resulting in a blowout loss to Opelika in the following game.

That won't be a problem this week.

The Red Devils (5-1, 3-1) know what they are up against when they face Auburn High (5-1, 3-1) at 8 tonight at Garrett-Harrison Stadium.

The two teams are among five tied for first in Region 3-6A. A win could mean an inside track at a region championship, while a loss could leave the team on the outside looking in come playoff time.

"We know it's a big week," Central offensive coordinator Ryan Nelson said. "We know the game has region implications. This year, there are five teams that all control their own destiny. If we win, we've got a chance. If we lose, we could be in a tough spot down the road."

Asked if it was fun to have so many teams vying for the region crown, Nelson smiled.

"It's fun if you win," he quipped.

To do that, Central's first task will be finding a way offensively to beat Auburn's strong defensive front, which feature's heralded linebacker Reuben Foster, an Auburn University commit.

Nelson said the coaches have stressed execution this week, noting that his team can't afford turnovers against a defense that allows so few opportunities.

"This is by far the best defense we've faced all year," he said. "Opelika was good, but it doesn't have the monster in the middle (Foster) that Auburn's got."

Still, the team is beatable, as Carver-Montgomery proved last week in a 46-20 blowout. In its past two games, Auburn has allowed an average of 35 points per game, after allowing just 26 in the first five games combined.

Nelson said that didn't mean much, only that good teams have found ways to beat the defense.

"They are human," he said. "But they're very, very good up front and in the secondary."

On the other side of the ball, Central defenders know it will be important for them to have a good performance to counteract the effects of the strong Auburn defense.

Free safety Christian Campbell said the defenders know the type of offense Auburn has and that Central would need to perform well to give itself a chance in the game.

"They have a good offense," he said. "We're just going to try and go out and limit what they do. We've worked hard to get better all week, and guys are more committed to what we're doing."

Outside linebacker Kendrick Hillian said practice has been more intense this week, as well.

"We've done a lot more identifying what we have to do with our assignments," he said, noting the importance of following those assignments tonight.

While every seems to understand the relative importance of this game in comparison to some of the others, neither players nor coaches are trying to let on that it is that much bigger than others.

Nelson said that the team has tried to treat it like other weeks, but they still know it is a rivalry with major implications.

The urgency, he said, isn't directed toward this game, however. It has been directed toward every game following the loss to Opelika.

"The urgency's been there," he said. "It was there after Opelika. We've had to win ever since that game, and it's no different this week. Our kids know what's at stake."

Campbell said the same.

"It's not really on our mind," he said of the intensity of this game. "The only thing on our mind is winning."

David Mitchell, 706-571-8571

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