MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- After forcing a safety against region foe Carver-Montgomery to cut the lead to six points with four minutes, 31 seconds remaining, Central had a final chance at an improbable victory.
It wasn't to be.
After two false start penalties backed Central back deep in its own territory, quarterback Ethan Baber tossed an interception to the Wolverines Andrew Walker, who returned it to the Central 2-yard line, sealing up a tight 23-11 win over Central on Thursday at the Cramton Bowl in Montgomery, Ala.
The loss puts Central behind the 8-ball in region play, where it faces another tough opponent in Opelika next week.
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After Central controlled the first two quarters, Carver seized momentum in the third quarter, scoring 14 consecutive points that gave it its first lead of the game seven minutes into the half. The Wolverines marched 80 yards in three and a half minutes for their first touchdown to cut the Central lead to two, forced a punt and returned that 32 yards for the go-ahead touchdown.
The first score was a 17-yard touchdown pass from Draequon Murphy to Landy Capetillo on third and goal from the 17.
Carver added a field goal and a touchdown on a run by Murphy to finish out its scoring.
Fittingly, in a first half ruled by the defenses, the game's first score came on a safety, when a slew of Central defenders forced Murphy to fumble in the end zone. The Wolverines pounced on the loose ball, but the Red Devils took a 2-0 lead less than a minute into the second quarter.
Central failed to convert on the short field following the free kick, going three and out and punting the ball back to Carver. It failed to gain any momentum on its next possession after forcing a quick punt, but finally gained some traction on offense on its final possession of the half.
After backing Carver up to its own 5-yard line for a punt, the Red Devils got the ball with good field position
at their own 47-yard line with two minutes, 32 seconds to play before the half.
Running back Kenneth Thomas started to find his groove, carrying three straight times to start the drive and picking up 25 yards, setting up a first-and-10 for Central from the Carver 28. With the option of bleeding clock before the half, the Red Devils instead elected to go for the home run. Quarterback Ethan Baber hit wide receiver Khaled Berklin for a 28-yard touchdown pass that put Central ahead 9-0 heading into the half.
On the play, Berklin caught the ball at the 15-yard line with plenty of green in front of him. He turned and raced for the goal line, meeting one defender at the front corner. Berklin went airborne, got hit in the legs and completed a full front flip into the end zone for the score.
Aside from that, though, it was a defensive show in the opening two stanzas, particularly by Central.
Carver possessed the ball seven times in the first half, five of which resulted in a punt. The other two ended in a safety and a whistle, as the first half came to a close. Three of the drives were three-and-outs, and the Wolverines amassed only 94 first-half yards.
Central was quick to the ball, limiting Carver to just 56 first-half yards on the ground and sacking the quarterback twice.
In the losing effort, Central was led by running back Traveon Samuel who carried 65 yards.
Thursday at the Cramton Bowl in Montgomery, Ala.
Central 0 9 0 2--11
Carver 0 0 14 9--23
C--Berklin 28 pass from Baber (Herring kick); 1:38
CM--Capetillo 17 pass from Murphy (Clay kick); 6:17
CM--Martin 32 punt return (Clay kick); 4:59
CM--Clay 34 field goal; 8:12
CM--Murphy 1 run (kick failed); 2:34
Records: Central, ;Carver-Montgomery, . Next: Central, Sept. 13 vs. Opelika at home; Carver-Montgomery, Thurs. vs. Jeff Davis at home.