Valley Preps

Central shows its resolve — and its Division I talent — in win over Jefferson Davis

This was a Jefferson Davis team that lost by three scores to Auburn High, lost by 37 points to Prattville and a team that entered the contest 3-5, winless on the road and needing a win to stay alive in the playoff race.

Central-Phenix City, meanwhile, needed a win and an Auburn loss to clinch the region, according to a team statistician. To the Red Devils’ credit, they won 49-6. But Auburn’s win means that the region will be decided next week, when Central travels to Auburn.

As for this game: It was a one-score contest at halftime. Before the fourth quarter even started, Central led by 40 and officials called for a running clock.

The win did not come easy at first, but the Red Devils showed their resolve — something they’ll need as they gear up for yet another state championship run — Friday night.

“Our guys really responded well,” Central coach Jamey DuBose said. “… I’m proud we did overcome (the turnover issues), we’ll go back to work, and we’ve got to work a little harder this week, and just keep getting better.”

The night started with Red Devils receiver E.J. Williams receiving a commemorative Under Armour All-American jersey at midfield. The Clemson commit will play in the Under Armour All-American game in January 2020 in Orlando, Florida, along with the top 100 recruits in the country.

Williams will join a stacked receiving corps at Clemson, headlined by former Red Devil and current Clemson standout Justyn Ross, who also played in the All-American game.

Williams finished the night with 59 receiving yards and two touchdowns, and called it a “great honor” to be named one of the top 100 recruits in the nation. NFL stars Julio Jones, A.J. Green and Amari Cooper all played in the game before attending their respective colleges, so to now be in the same conversation as some of the league’s best is nothing to scoff at.

Williams will be coached by either Deion Sanders or Ed Reed, both Pro Football Hall-of-Famers and both major names in the sport. And yes, there will be a trip to Disney World too.

“I haven’t been back there since I was a child,” Williams said. “I’ve just always wanted to go back to Disney.”

But the night wasn’t all sunshine and roses for Alabama’s defending Class 7A state champions, at least at first. To start, it was freezing.

Central’s lead was 14-6 at the end of a first half that included some uncharacteristic penalties, a scoop-and-score by the visiting Volunteers and a Tucker Melton interception that went straight to a Jeff Davis defensive lineman. Melton’s first-half touchdown pass went to Williams — an easy two-yard strike that appeared to set the tone for the half.

Normally, games like Friday night’s would be over before the half. The Red Devils entered averaging more than 400 total yards per game and 38 points per game. Such wasn’t the case Friday night, as the Red Devils’ offense stayed out-of-sync for most of the first half.

That was all sorted out after halftime, though.

The Red Devils scored on each of their third-quarter drives, putting the game out of reach and capping off Senior Night with a comfortable win. They blocked a punt, shut down the Volunteers’ offense and even recovered an accidental onside kick.

Central finished with 389 total yards and had 19 first downs, compared to Jeff Davis’ three. And the Red Devils will need more of the same next week if they want that region title.

“We’re going to have to play really well (against Auburn),” DuBose said. “Auburn is a surprising team this year. They’re well-coached and they play hard. When it’s on the line, Auburn’s been a winner over the last few years.”

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Joshua Mixon is a reporter for the Ledger-Enquirer. He covers sports (Auburn and preps) and local news, and is a member of the Football Writers Association of America. He previously covered Georgia athletics for the Telegraph. You can follow him on Twitter @JoshDMixon.