It wasn’t all as easy for Central as the first play of game, an 80-yard touchdown pass from Zion Webb to Quan Weaver. There were a couple turnovers, a couple dropped passes and a handful of missed defensive assignments.
But for a first impression under new coach Jamey DuBose, it wasn’t bad.
Central hung on for a 30-21 win over visiting Stockbridge (Ga.) in the season-opener on Friday at Garrett-Harrison Stadium.
It wasn’t without its theatrics, as Stockbridge cut a 23-6 deficit to 23-21 in the final quarter, but the Central defense stood tall in the waning minutes, forcing two key turnovers to preserve the win. Perhaps the biggest play of the game was a shoestring tackle made by Bernardo Hinton against Stockbridge running back Artemus Mitchell.
Mitchell had broken free and had yards of daylight on what looked to be a sure go-ahead touchdown inside of six minutes. Instead, Hinton closed the gap and brought Mitchell down by his fingertips at the 32-yard line.
Stockbridge quarterback Malachi Brown tossed an interception on the next play, allowing Central to run valuable time off the clock.
The Tigers had another chance after forcing a Central fumble, but Central’s Deiondre Kinard sacked Brown and forced a fumble that was returned by Walter Pritchett for a game-clinching touchdown.
“Hey, a win is a win,” coach Jamey DuBose said. “Sometimes ugly wins are just as good as any other. We’ve got some things to clean up. We put the ball on the carpet too many times, but we’ll get better.”
Central did turn the ball over on four occasions, but survived with opportunistic defense.
“I was real proud of the way the defense played, especially in the first half,” DuBose said.
The opening play from scrimmage gave the Central faithful plenty to salivate over for the rest of the season, displaying how explosive the talented offense can be.
The ball was snapped from Central’s own 20-yard line to quarterback Webb, who dropped back, stood in a pocket built by great protection on the line and looked at wide receiver Weaver streaking down the middle of the field. The Stockbridge safety missed the coverage for a split second, giving Weaver enough time to build 8 yards of daylight. The pass fell neatly into Weaver’s hands, and he jogged into the end zone for the game’s first score.
While the Red Devils did add 10 points in the first half on a field goal and a 4-yard touchdown pass to Traveon Samuel, it was marked more by a handful of missed opportunities that likely would have put the game out of reach by halftime.
Central had a pair of drives stall and then suffered a fumble by Webb inside the 10-yard line with just over six minutes remaining in the half.
After Central scored to extend its lead to 17-6, Bernardo Hinton intercepted a pass from Stockbridge quarterback Brown on the first play of the ensuing drive and returned it to the Stockbridge 22-yard line. With 10 seconds left, Central had another chance to add some points, but instead turned the ball over on an interception of its own.
Overall, though, the offense was more than productive. Webb completed 12 of 20 passes for 228 yards and two touchdowns. Samuel rushed for 98 yards and received for 75 and a touchdown. Kenneth Thomas added a touchdown on the ground.
“Good teams have to know how to win in all situations,” DuBose said. “I thought we did that tonight. Now we just have to go back to work. I’ve preached all summer that we don’t want to be our best in week one. We want to keep getting better.”
Friday at Garrett-Harris Stadium
Stockbridge 0 6 7 8—21
Central 7 10 6 7—30
C-Quan Weaver 80 pass from Zion Webb (Cameron Herring kick); 11:45
C-Herring 31 field goal; 11:05
S-Miles Vaughn 14 run (kick failed); 9:15
C-Traveon Samuel 4 pass from Webb (Herring kick); :27
C-Kenneth Thomas 9 run (run failed); 6:59
S-Damar Chanis 31 pass from Malachi Brown (Richard Pinedo kick); :00
S-Jacob Pinch 41 pass from Brown (Mitchell run); 9:22
C-Walter Pritchett 50 fumble return (Herring kick); :49
Records: Stockbridge 0-1; Central 1-0. Next: Central, Friday at Harris County.