Valley Preps

Region lead up for grabs for Central

After a difficult start to the 2016 season — a loss to Hoover in the Champions Challenge in Montgomery, Ala. — the Central Red Devils have responded just as coach Jamey DuBose would have hoped.

The Red Devils have run off four straight wins, 36-0 over Fairfield, 42-14 over Auburn, 51-14 over Smiths Station and 35-28 over Opelika.

Central has played two emotional rivalry games the last two weeks against Smiths Station and Opelika.

The Red Devils had no problem going from the blowout win against Smiths Station to play Opelika, the fourth-ranked team in Class 6A.

The Red Devils jumped out to a 28-7 lead over the Bulldogs and held on for the win.

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

Now, the Red Devils return to Region 2-7A play Friday. Central starts a stretch of four straight region games when it hosts Enterprise.

The Red Devils are trying to win their third straight region championship. Central has won 12 region championships since 1984, but the Red Devils had accomplished a three-peat only once — 1993, 1994 and 1995.

If they are going to pull off that rare feat again, then Friday night’s game at Garrett-Harrison Stadium is essentially a must win.

Central is 2-0 and a half-game behind Enterprise, which is 3-0.

With a loss to Enterprise, Central would essentially be two games behind since Enterprise would own the tiebreaker. Plus, Enterprise has only Smiths Station and Auburn left on the region schedule after Friday. It is unlikely that Enterprise would lose both of those games.

The Red Devils will also be looking to administer some payback in Friday’s game. Central’s only loss in the region last year came 17-14 in Enterprise in the last game of the regular season. In fact, that is the only region loss for Central in DuBose’s 2-plus seasons.

Central did pretty well last week in the payback department. The Red Devils beat Opelika, 35-28. Opelika was another team that beat Central last season.

Now the Red Devils face a game more important that either of those.

Keeping the intensity needed to play one big game after another is always a concern for a high school football coach, who is dealing with 15-, 16- , 17- and 18-year-olds.

That is something DuBose talked about last week in the buildup to the Opelika game. He was concerned about keeping his players’ focus for three weeks in a row.