Valley Preps

First half cushion helps Central hold on for win over undefeated Opelika

Central wide receiver Justyn Ross catches a pass against Opelika Friday, Sept. 23, 2016.
Central wide receiver Justyn Ross catches a pass against Opelika Friday, Sept. 23, 2016. mniziolek@ledger-enquirer.com

Spotting Central 21 points isn’t exactly a winning strategy.

Previously undefeated Opelika found that out Friday night when it allowed three second quarter touchdowns to give the Red Devils a 28-7 lead going into halftime.

Central needed every bit of the cushion when the Bulldogs came storming back in the second half scoring 14 unanswered out of the break.

Quarterback Zion Webb locked the 35-28 victory down for Central when he found Kylin Brooks in the end zone with 7:47 to go.

“That is a dang good football team over there, it was two great football teams (playing tonight) and it’s just like it’s been every year,” Central coach Jamey DuBose said. “It’s been within six points or so. I think if you were a fan you really enjoyed tonight.”

DuBose decided to go for it on a fourth-and-13 at Opelika’s 32-yard line.

The defensive line collapsed on Webb immedaitely, but the speedy quarterback extended the play with his legs just long enough to allow Brooks to get open.

“The play was really blown up from the line,” Brooks said. “I never gave up on the ball and kept running. My quarterback saw me down the field and threw it up. I went up and had to make the play.”

It was Webb’s fourth touchdown of the night and second to Brooks. Brooks broke open a short pass from Webb with some quick moves in the middle of the field to turn a short gain into a 54-yard touchdown.

Central did give Opelika one final opportunity at a game-tying drive when it turned the ball over on downs at the Bulldogs 1-yard line with 1:26 to go.

Opelika only managed to get nine of the 99 yards it needed. Central linebacker Ben Alexander tackled Worth in the backfield on fourth down to regain possession.

“We don’t want to kick a field goal, have it blocked and them run it back and score…” DuBose said. “They had to go 99 with a minute to go, I’m going to put my defense in that situation every time.”

Central coach Jamey DuBose credited the offense’s early rhythm for setting the tone. Webb got the night started with a 46-yard throw down the sideline to Opelika’s 3-yard line to top 2017 wide receiver prospect Justyn Ross.

Webb punched it in from the 1-yard line a couple players later to hand Central the early 7-0 advantage.

Opelika would tie the game late in the first quarter, but it was about the only offensive highlight in an ugly half of football for the Bulldogs.

Central scored three touchdowns in the second quarter — two more from Webb —with the prospect of adding more coming out of halftime after deferring on the coin toss.

Webb went 7 of 13 in the first half for 141 yards and three total touchdowns (two rushing).

With Central driving down field trying to add to a 14-point lead late in the first half, Opelika’s defense failed to get off the field on two short yardage situations.

Webb converted a third-and-five at midfield with a 10-yard pass to Allen on a slant.

Jamaar Spivey picked up a yard on a fourth-and-one inside the red zone to set up his own 17-yard touchdown run on the next play to cap a 10-play, 52-yard drive.

The touchdown with 51 seconds left in the half gave Central a commanding 28-7 going into the break.

Outside of Worth’s 28-yard first quarter touchdown run, Central’s defense dominated the first half allowing only 57 total yards of offense.

The Red Devils pass defense was particularly impressive allowing only three completions on eight attempts for 12 yards. The number of yards lost on a pair of first half sacks (DeAnthony Miles, Markail Benton) was more than double what Opelika gained through the air.

“They went in and made some tremendous adjustments and hurt us,” DuBose said. “We knew that, we knew that, but our coaches did a great job of trying to just hold on. It goes back to what I tell our kids — fast start, fast start, first half — that’s where we will win the game.”

Friday at Bulldogs Stadium

Central

7

21

0

7

35

Opelika

7

0

14

7

28

First Quarter

C – Zion Webb 1 run (Alvin Rentaria kick), 8:43

O – JD Worth 28 run (Austen Blackmon kick), 3:29

Second Quarter

C - Kylin Brooks 54 pass from Webb (Rentaria kick), 10:16

C – Webb 3 run (Rentaria kick), 5:57

C – Jamaar Spivey 17 run (Rentaria kick), 0:51

Third Quarter

O – Jaleel Heard 19 pass from Worth (Blackmon kick), 8:10

O – Heard 13 pass from Worth (Blackmon kick), 1:09

Fourth Quarter

C – Brooks 32 pass from Webb (Rentaria kick), 7:47

O – Heard 54 pass from Worth (Blackmon kick), 7:17

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