A visibly upset Jamey DuBose shook his head as he stood in front of his Central football team after practice on Wednesday. The team had practiced for only little over an hour and were scheduled to be finished for the day.
But DuBose wasn’t happy with the effort.
“If you think we’re going to win just because I’m here or whatever else, that isn’t gonna happen,” he told the players. “All you seniors who were upset with that ugly record last year — that 6-4 — I’ve got news for you: You’re staring it right in the face. Maybe worse.”
It was a moment to open the eyes of the Red Devils, who kick off their season against Stockbridge (Ga.) at 8 p.m. Friday at Garrett-Harrison Stadium. Stockbridge is coming off of back-to-back 11-win, quarterfinal seasons and is just a precursor to the rigorous schedule Central will face all season long.
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The message from DuBose was clear: This Central team may have the talent of a state title contender, but it’s going to take a lot more than that to survive the daunting region and classification.
“They’ve won a lot,” DuBose said of Stockbridge. “Harris County, second week — good football team. Auburn, third week — good football team.”
And he could have continued with that thought. Central’s fifth game is against Prattville, its sixth against Opelika and its seventh against Smiths Station, all of which are road games. It closes the season with Enterprise.
While Stockbridge is a non-region contest, the players and coaches know it’s important to perform well, regardless of whether it results in a victory or not.
“At the end of the day, it’s what I try to tell people, you don’t worry about being 10-0,” DuBose said. “That’s a great thing if it happens. You try to get better every week and get into the playoffs and be the first or second team. You try to win your region and be the first-place team and get a good seeding, and then you let the playoffs take care of themselves.”
What games like Stockbridge are good for is testing your team, challenging it and seeing how it comes out against adversity.
The adverse situation the Red Devils will face on Friday is an offense it isn’t used to seeing. Stockbridge runs a triple-option, which DuBose said isn’t common to 6A and 7A football in Alabama.
“They get in a double wing, they get under center. It’s something defenses now don’t see much of,” he said. “We’ve got to defend the triple-option. We’ve got to have someone on the dive back, someone on the quarterback and somebody on pitches. It’s responsibility defense. It’s something new, it’s something different for us.”
At the same time, how Central’s offensive line fairs against a talented defense will dictate a lot of its success offensively.
“Being able to run the football is going to be crucial to us getting a win,” DuBose said.
Red Devils senior running back Kenneth Thomas, who will share the bulk of the load out of the backfield with running back/wide receiver Traveon Samuel, said he doesn’t feel the pressure to succeed on Friday.
“I don’t see it as a challenge,” he said. “We just need to get after it. If we all execute — the linemen, the running backs, the coaches — if we all get together, we’ve got a really good chance.”
Friday will be the first look at Central’s new up-tempo offense, which Thomas said the players have grasped well and just need to continue to iron out as they go forward.
But to succeed in an up-tempo offense, players need to push the pace at all times and let their opponents get sluggish rather than themselves.
That was DuBose’s message on Wednesday, one he’s hoping he will see results from on Friday.
This week's games
Jordan vs. Columbus (K), 7:30 p.m.
Kendrick vs. Stewart County (M), 7:30 p.m.
Shaw at Luella, 7:30 p.m.
Calvary Christian at John Hancock Academy, 7:30 p.m.
Stockbridge at Central, 8 p.m.
Americus-Sumter at Smiths Station, 8 p.m.
*Northside at Taylor County, 7:30 p.m.
*Twiggs County at Chattahoochee County, 7:30 p.m.
Carver at Carver-Atlanta (at Tri-Cities), 2:30 p.m.
Brookstone vs. Mount Pisgah (M), 4 p.m.
Hardaway at Tri-Cities, 5:15 p.m.