Central rolled to an easy 56-7 win over Murphy in the first round of the AHSAA Class 7A state playoffs at Garrett-Harrison Stadium.
Auburn beat Davidson on Friday night, so the Red Devils will host Auburn next week in the second round.
The over-matched Panthers offered little resistance to a Central going into the postseason with a championship or bust mind set.
Murphy found itself staring down a 35-0 deficit at the half without a silver lining in sight.
“We got to keep hot,” Central coach Jamey DuBose said. “I like where we are at.”
With the Panthers offense struggling, Central knocked their starting quarterback Maurice Robinson out of the game midway through the second quarter with an injury.
Robinson was dealing with multiple defenders in his face on every snap whether he was dropping back to throw or carrying the ball. Backup quarterback Russell Snider played the rest of the game.
“The goal was to stop the x-factor, and the x-factor was their quarterback,” Central linebacker Markail Benton said. “We did as we were told.”
Murphy turned the ball over three times in the first half and had more penalty yards than total yards of offense.
“I thought we played real physical, which is what we got to do," DuBose said. "We took a week off last week with the open week. You are always concerned with coming back with how sharp you are going to be. I thought we were real sharp.”
Central linebacker N’Travious Floyd’s pick-six would have been enough for the Red Devils to advance to the second round, but the offense wasn’t just going to ride the defense’s coattails.
Murphy had no one on the field who could cover 6-foot-3 junior receiver Justyn Ross.
Central quarterback Zion Webb exploited the matchup early and often throwing three first half touchdowns to the highly touted 2017 prospect.
It was Webb’s 75-yard touchdown run on Central’s second possession that was the beginning of the end for Murphy.
Webb saw an opening with his arms extended to running back Jaxton Carson on a zone-read option play. The dual threat signal-caller pulled the ball back and burst through a gigantic hole in the line of scrimmage untouched.
Two defensive backs tried to catch Webb from behind, but the quarterback had just enough left in the tank to cross the goal line a step ahead of his pursuers to make it 14-0 with 5:23 left in the first quarter.
Central’s 1,000-yard rusher Jaxton Carson didn’t even need to break a sweat until the third quarter when he broke a 49-yard touchdown run on the Red Devils first play of the half.
Carson had to weave his way through traffic all the way down the field to get to the goal line. The running back’s stutter step late in the play drew audible cheers and gasps from the home crowd.
The senior carried the ball only nine times, but still managed 129 yards.
“I tried to force the run in the second half and Jaxton just made two great runs,” DuBose said. “I mean he made a lot of people miss. He’s been doing that all year. He’s a great player, a remarkable player.”
Friday at Garrett-Harrison Stadium
Murphy – 0-0-7-0-0
Central – 14-21-7-7-56
C – Justyn Ross 7 pass from Zion Webb (Alvin Rentaria kick), 9:06
C – Webb 75 run (Rentaria kick), 5:23
C - N’Travious Floyd 34 interception (Rentaria kick), 11:48
C - Ross 34 pass from Webb (Rentaria kick), 9:10
C - Ross 6 pass from Webb (Rentaria kick), 0:14
C – Jaxton Carson 46 run (Rentaria kick), 10:40
M – Jaylon Smith 42 pass from Russell Snider (Adam Thomas), 6:36
C – Jamaar Spivey 1 run (Rentaria kick), 3:56
C – Peter Parrish 35 run (Rentaria kick), 11:42