In the standings and for playoff positioning, this was no harm, no foul.
But any mojo Central had worked up heading into the "second season" was stunted Friday night in their regular season finale, a 35-23 loss to Stanhope Elmore at Garrett-Harrison Stadium.
With Central's playoffs opening next week, their three most explosive offensive weapons -- running back Deon Hall, quarterback Jamal Howard and athlete Traveon Samuel -- each needed some type of attention from the trainers, leaving Hall's and Howard's status in doubt for next week.
Both teams were an identical 7-2 going into the evening, having wrapped up postseason berths starting next week, so it served as a solid tuneup for both sides.
"It's really hard, because you're just playing for pride," Mustangs coach Jeff Foshee said. "We knew they had a good football team, we knew they were fast. Early on, we were able to do about what we wanted to."
The Mustangs (8-2) were more prepared and physical, running over Central's defense in the first half to the tune of 225 total yards. Junior Kenterris Tyre scored three first-half touchdowns, two on the ground and another on a 95-yard kickoff return.
When the Red Devils (7-3) fought back to within 12 points on junior Ryan Humphrey's second long rushing touchdown with 10 minutes, 26 seconds remaining, Stanhope Elmore calmly executed a 66-yard drive lasting more than 9 minutes. Quarterback Brandon Wilson himself picked up first downs with three short-yardage plays on third or fourth down, including a 3-yard game-clinching score on 4th-and-goal from the three.
"Bleeding the clock, we were hoping to get another score, and we did," Foshee said. "That really sealed the deal."
At least head coach Woodrow Lowe won't have to reach too far to grasp his team's attention heading into next week's first round of the Class 6A state playoffs. Central clinched the No. 4 seed in Region 3 with last week's win at Smiths Station and will travel to Region 4 No. 2 seed Spain Park in Birmingham.
"We didn't do squat," Lowe said. "We let them dictate to us the entire game. There ain't a whole lot to say."
Hall re-aggravated a left foot injury plaguing him all season, being removed from the game in the second quarter. He was in full uniform throughout the second half but never had his helmet nearby.
Howard injured his right arm on a scramble, and briefly left the game before returning. But after an incomplete playaction pass down the field left him wincing, Howard took himself out and did not return.
"I don't even know yet," Lowe said of their future status. "I just know this time of year, good football players know how to find their way back."
Samuel, who rotated in running the Wildcat in Howard's absence, also stopped play when he appeared to have a leg cramp. But he jogged off after a few moments, and did finish the game, catching a 26-yard touchdown pass from backup quarterback Ethan Baber.
Lowe was short and sweet evaluating what needs to improve heading into win-or-go-home time.
"Everything," Lowe said. "Everything."
Friday at Garrett-Harrison Stadium
S-Elmore 14 14 0 7--35
Central 3 7 0 13--23
SE --Kenterris Tyre 5 run (Angel Vasquez kick), 7:00
C --Chandler Chancellor 18 FG, 1:23
SE --Tyre 95 kickoff return (Vasquez kick), 1:10
SE --Byran Brower 1 run (Vasquez kick), 7:21
C --Ryan Humphrey 38 kick (Chancellor kick), 5:34
SE --Tyre 34 run (Vasquez kick), 3:22
C --Humphrey 31 run (kick failed), 10:26
SE --Brandon Wilson 3 run (Vasquez kick), 1:02
C --Traveon Samuel 26 pass from Ethan Baber (Chancellor kick), 0:02
Records: Stanhope Elmore 7-2, Central 7-2. Next: Central, at Spain Park, Friday, 8 p.m., first round of Class 6A state playoffs