Valley Preps

Central WR Justyn Ross takes center stage with three-touchdown performance

Central's Justyn Ross with a pass reception in the end zone for Central's third touch down against Murphy in the 1st half of the game Friday November 4, 2016.
Central's Justyn Ross with a pass reception in the end zone for Central's third touch down against Murphy in the 1st half of the game Friday November 4, 2016.

Murphy didn’t have a defender on the field capable of defending Central wide receiver Justyn Ross Friday night at Garrett-Harrison Stadium.

The 6-foot-3 wide receiver presents a mismatch for opposing defenses on a weekly basis, but he’s been an under-utilized weapon — 26 catches for 469 yards — with the Red Devils’ ground game putting up record numbers.

That could change for Central’s playoff run.

Ross’ three first-half touchdowns in Central’s 56-7 win were as many he caught during the entire regular season.

“The playoffs we got a touch chart,” Central coach Jamey DuBose said. “During the year it’s a little different, but we have an idea of who we got to get the ball in the hands off, how many times and everything. We looked for ways to get it to certain people and matchups. Justyn came out and did what he needed to in the first half.”

Ross didn’t take his increased role in DuBose’s game plan for granted.

Central’s passing attacking looked shaky on the team’s opening possession. After three straight incompletions, Ross had a message for quarterback Zion Webb and the offensive line.

“He didn’t really have time to relax in the pocket,” Ross said. “I told them — all they had to do was relax. They were little tense.”

Webb completed his next three passes on the 12-play, 65-yard scoring drive including a 7-yard throw to Ross in the end zone.

“In the regular season we didn’t really have a connection, we have to get that connection to go chase that ring,” Ross said.

The two were in sync the rest of the half connecting for two more touchdowns to put Central up 35-0 by halftime.

Webb hit Ross on a route down the middle of the field for a 34-yard touchdown early in the second quarter. Ross caught the ball in stride having blown past the defensive back trying to keep pace with him in coverage.

Ross found the end zone again with 14 seconds left in the half when Webb saw the receiver lined up on the outside against man coverage inside the 10-yard line.

All the quarterback had to do was toss the ball up high enough for Ross to go get it, which the receiver did by plucking it out of the air right above the defensive back’s head.

Ross showed off all the skills making him one of the most highly sought after prospects in the 2018 class.

The 4-star receiver with offers from Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, Florida State and Michigan is 247 Sports’ top-ranked prospect in the state.

Central linebacker Markail Benton, the team’s top 2017 top prospect, smiled when asked to describe Ross’ talent level, using the word tremendous twice in one sentence.

The soft-spoken receiver is hoping to have a few more opportunities this season to live up to the hype.

Last year, Ross season was cut short in the second round of the playoffs with a torn MCL. After the wide receiver rehabbed the injury, he tore his ACL.

The injuries are in the rear view mirror for Ross, who in his coach’s words will be seeing a “lot more touches” as Central inches closer to Jordan-Hare Stadium.

Michael Niziolek: 334-332-8572, @wareagleextra