Valley Preps

‘Resilient’ Central team looking for respect on both sides of the ball

Central running back Jaxton Carson gets tackled by an Opelika defender Friday.
Central running back Jaxton Carson gets tackled by an Opelika defender Friday.

Coach Jamey DuBose doesn’t like the way people are talking about his Central football team.

DuBose had a message for anyone who views the Red Devils as a team riding its defense to success following a 35-28 win over a previously unbeaten Opelika Friday night.

“All these people I keep running into saying hey coach that defense is the reason we are this or the offense is that,” DuBose said. “Stop talking about offense and defense, just talk about Central football.”

DuBose, covered in sweat, was as fired up after the game as he was on the sidelines.

“I’m proud of our defense, proud of our offense,” DuBose said. “I think we played as a total team tonight. This is what you call a Central victory.”

Central’s rollercoaster night contributed to DuBose’s emotional state.

The Red Devils jumped out to a 28-7 lead over Opelika Friday night, but had to fight off a serious second half rally to escape with the win.

DuBose liked his team’s resiliency as the Bulldogs battled back to within a touchdown.

Opelika failed multiple times to tie the game in front of its boisterous home crowd despite what DuBose described as a not insignificant advantage in the way the game was called.

“I know I’m not supposed to say anything about the officiating, but that was ridiculous,” DuBose said.

The disparity in penalties — 15-3 in Opelika’s favor — bothered DuBose as did the lack of holding calls against the Bulldogs’ offensive line.

Central’s sideline became increasingly vocal in the second half as officials refused to call a single penalty on Opelika’s line.

“Our defensive line had to fight through a lot of adversity,” DuBose said.

DuBose sees Friday night’s challenging atmosphere providing dividends down the line for a 4-1 Central team looking to compete for a state title.

“Our guys never let anything get to them all night…” DuBose said. “Being in this situation tonight will make us better.”

Key play

There seemed to be a new key play on each series as Central’s lead faded away, but without quarterback Zion Webb’s 32-yard touchdown to Kaylin Brooks it’s hard to see the Red Devils escaping back to Phenix City with the win. It didn’t quite put Opelika away, but Central needed the points on the board to survive.

Difference makers

Kaylin Brooks, Central, wide receiver — Brooks provided a pair of thrilling moments with his two touchdown grabs. With Justyn Ross drawing the eyes of the defense, Brooks had a big night missing out on a 100-yard performance by seven yards.

Zion Webb, Central, quarterback — Webb didn’t lit up the box score — falling shy of 250 total yards — but the importance of Webb’s composure in the pocket and improved decision-making can’t be understated.

JD Worth, Opelika, quarterback — Worth was at the center of Opelika’s comeback efforts. The quarterback might not have the high-end speed of a true dual-threat quarterback, but Worth effectively mixed it up through the air and on the ground to get the Bulldogs back in the game.

Individual stats

Central — Zion Webb, quarterback, 11-21, 190 yards, 2 TDs, 14 carries, 46 yards, 2 TDs; Kaylin Brooks 3 catches, 93 yards, 2 TDs, Justyn Ross, wide receiver, 3 catches, 58 yards; Jaxton Carson, running back, 17 carries, 98 yards; Jamaar Spivey, running back, 7 carries, 52 yards

Opelika — JD Worth, quarterback, 9 of 16, 133 yards, 3 TDs, 12 carries, 49 yards, 1 TD; Weldrin Ford, 17 carries, 65 yards; Jaleel Heard, receiver, 4 catches, 97 yards, 3 TDs

Coach quote

“If you look at the situation tonight on the road, their crowd, the noise, it was tough to even communicate.” Central coach Jamey DuBose

Player quote

“We have the best defense in the state. Them boys they deserve it. They got out there, the d-line works their tail off in practice. If our defense plays like it did tonight, never gives up and stand together as a team we’ll go far.” Central wide receiver Kaylin Brooks