Central to face Hoover without Jamal Howard

dmitchell@ledger-enquirerMay 16, 2013 

The mood around the Central High football locker room on Thursday was one of excitement as the Red Devils prepared for a spring test against Hoover High on Friday.

The game, which will be played at 8 p.m. at Garrett-Harrison Stadium, will match Central against last year’s AHSAA Class 6A state champions, a team that went 15-0 in dominating fashion.

Getting its first live action since a blowout loss to Spain Park in the first round of the playoffs, however, Central is less focused on the quality of its opponent as it is in how it performs and improves on the field.

“It’s not so much about testing us against Hoover,” offensive coordinator Ryan Nelson said. “We’re worried about Central, and we’re worried about the guys that we’ve got. Who can we depend on and who can we trust in the fall? It’s a great measuring stick when you play a program of that stature, but we just want to see what we have.”

Head coach Woodrow Lowe said two weeks ago that the focus of his team’s spring practice was competition — competition for positions and competition during games.

This game will provide plenty of opportunities.

The game will be played with regular-season rules, with a few minor exceptions. There will be kickoffs, punts and field goals, but rushing punters and kickers will be prohibited.

Other than that, it will be live-action football, and Lowe is excited to see what his team has on the field.

“This is a chance for our players to gain a lot of experience,” he said. “It’s a good opportunity to find out some things about our guys, how they rise to the occasion.”

There will be a different look on offense for this game, as there has been all spring for Central. Quarterback Jamal Howard has not participated during spring practice due to undisclosed disciplinary reasons, opening the door for Ethan Baber, who Nelson said has performed well.

“Ethan has improved a lot since day one,” he said. “Coming out of our first practice and looking yesterday in our ninth practice, there have been great improvements. I expect him to do well. I hold him to a high level.”

Baber was the starter in the loss to Spain Park while Howard sat due to an injury. Howard will be back with the team in the fall, coaches said, and is expected to take back over as the starting quarterback.

As for the game against Hoover, Nelson said it wasn’t a challenge for Central because the result of the game is not what coaches are concerned with.

“Yeah, Hoover will have a lot of depth,” he said. “The challenge we worry about, though, is what Central does. At the end of the day, Can Central get better in what we’re trying to accomplish this spring? That’s what we’re here for (on Friday).”

The game will be $5 for students and adults and concessions will be available throughout the contest.

David Mitchell, 706-571-8571; Follow David on Twitter @leprepsports.

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