Valley Preps

Carver, Central hit the road for state playoff contests

Carver running back Us Beasley breaks free for a long run and Carver’s first touchdown against Cross Creek on Nov. 11.
Carver running back Us Beasley breaks free for a long run and Carver’s first touchdown against Cross Creek on Nov. 11.

Carver and Central continue their journeys through the state playoffs on Friday night. Meanwhile, Manchester will begin its quest.

Carver at Blessed Trinity, 7:30 p.m.

In the eight seasons prior to 2014, the Tigers had a state championship, four trips to the semifinals and three to the quarterfinals with a post-season record of 23-7.

Safe to say, Carver had become one of the elite teams in the state.

But the last two seasons were a different story. The Tigers lost in the first round of the state playoffs both seasons, including an embarrassing 70-34 loss to Drew, a No. 4 seed, last year.

That is why last week’s 35-6 rout of Cross Creek was about more than just a win in the GHSA Class 4A state playoffs. The Tigers needed to re-establish themselves as a state power.

“That’s huge for our program, for our kids,” Carver coach Dre’Mail King said after the Cross Creek game. “There were a lot of people doubting these kids.

“People aren’t always positive when it comes to dealing with our football team, but they closed the door, and they were able to do what they needed to do within themselves. I love these kids. They blocked out all the negativity and were able to stick together and do what we needed to do.”

Running back Cameron Jessie, who has 1,193 yards and nine touchdowns rushing, said it was senior leadership.

“They came together and said we’re not going home any more,” Jessie said after the Cross Creek game. “We’re not losing in the first round any more. We’re going to the championship. The team bought in. They bought in with Coach King. At first, it was a little iffy, but now it’s really working out.

“There was a lot of adversity at first and a lot of doubters. We’re trying to shock Columbus, Georgia.”

Carver will try to take the next step when it faces Blessed Trinity in Roswell on Friday night in the second round. The Titans are 9-2 after their 33-0 win over Chapel Hill last week.

Blessed Trinity is undefeated against teams from Georgia. The Titans’ losses were to a team from New Jersey and a team from Tennessee.

“I’ve seen Blessed Trinity a couple of times, and they look very strong, but I think we’re also very strong,” King said. “If we have anything like last week in practice, I guarantee you we’ll come out and play good ball.”

Central at McGill-Toolen, 8 p.m.

Coach Jamey DuBose has taken the Red Devils to the quarterfinals in his first season and to the semifinals last season.

Friday night, he will be looking to take Central back to the state finals when it takes on McGill-Toolen in Mobile.

The Class 7A state final is scheduled for Wednesday, Nov. 30, at Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn. If the Red Devils earn a spot in the final, it would be the first time since they won it all in 1993.

They have lost in two semifinals since then, last year 26-21 to McGill-Toolen and 45-12 to Prattville in 2011.

Central is playing its best football since clinching a third straight Region 2 title. In the three games since then Central has outscored its opponents 162-19.

“We just got to get better from here,” quarterback Zion Webb said after last week’s rout of Auburn. “We can’t get complacent.”

Avoiding complancency is something DuBose has talked about before.

“In the playoffs if you play a bad football game and you go out, that’s it,” DuBose said after winning the region against R.E. Lee. “You don’t get do-overs. It’s not golf. You don’t get mulligans. I hope our guys have understood that. We’ve got experience in the playoffs now, we’ve been deep in the playoffs, they understand the practice schedule and what it takes. I hope the success that last year’s team was able to give us will now make us understand how to get on to the championship game.”

Twiggs County at Manchester, 7:30 p.m.

After having a bye in the first round of the GHSA Class A-public school playoffs as the No. 8 seed, Manchester will get its first taste of the postseason when it hosts Twiggs County on Friday.

Twiggs County, the No. 9 seed, crushed Marion County 46-7 last week in the first round. The Cobras are 8-3.

Manchester is 9-1. The Blue Devils were unbeaten until losing the Region 4 championship game 55-13 to Macon County two weeks ago.

Dana Barker and Michael Niziolek contributed to this report

Kevin Price: 706-320-4493, @lesports