Up four points and facing a fourth-and-7 from Prattville’s 17-yard line with just around two and a half minutes left, Central coach Jamey DuBose was faced with a decision.
Only, to him, it wasn’t much of a decision at all.
“It was all the way fourth down, we were going for it,” he said after the game. “When we crossed the 50, it was four-down territory. We were going to milk the clock and do whatever we had to do to get the win.”
That’s exactly what the Red Devils did.
Motioning to a formation they had not shown all season long, the Red Devils got single coverage on both big wide receivers, Jamal Couch and Justyn Ross. Quarterback Quan Weaver went to the former, who turned his body and snagged the pass out of the air in the front left corner of the end zone. The score gave Central a 20-10 lead, which stood for the final two minutes, 28 seconds of the game.
“Jamal made a great play on that ball. Great play,” DuBose said. “And Quan’s a winner. He’s shown that ability. … He hadn’t thrown the ball perfectly all night, but one of Quan’s best throws is a fade on the goal line, and we felt pretty good about that throw.”
The win improved Central’s record to 4-1 overall and 3-0 in Class 7A, Region 2. The Red Devils have now scored victories over Auburn and Prattville, which entered the season as two of the teams most likely to unseat Central as region champions. Prattville, which beat Central in the playoffs last year and finished as the state runners-up in Class 7A, fell to 3-1 and 1-1 in the region.
A lot of coaches wouldn’t have made the decision to go for broke with the game on the line, but a lot of coaches don’t have the benefit of having a defense as impressive as Central’s. DuBose said that because of the way that unit had played throughout the game, he felt comfortable putting it back on the field and asking for one more stop with just a four-point lead.
As it turned out, the defense still made a quick stop on Prattville’s last-ditch drive trailing 20-10. It forced a quick turnover on downs, and Weaver was able to kneel down to drain the final minute off the clock for the victory.
It was just one of a number of stops the unit made in a second half in which it held the Lions scoreless. Their first drive ended in an interception by John Broussard, Central’s second pick of the night with the first going to Karon Delince in the first half. The following drive made it as deep as the Central 32, but Toron Morten came up with a sack on third-and-13 to end the threat.
Again, Prattville drove deep into Central territory, making it as close as the 16-yard line, but a 42-yard field goal attempt by A.J. Reed was blocked to preserve the slim 14-10 lead with under nine minutes remaining.
The Lions’ final two drives ended in a three-and-out and the turnover on downs that sealed the game.
“We just told ourselves at halftime that if they didn’t put anymore points on the board, they couldn’t win,” junior linebacker Markail Benton said. “So that’s what we wanted to do — shut them out.”
It was a complete wire-to-wire effort DuBose said he didn’t think he had seen quite yet from his team in 2015. It was a focus in the offseason after falling to Prattville in the Class 7A quarterfinals, and he said he finally saw the work come to fruition on Friday night.
“I felt like Prattville in the playoffs wore us down and they were able to run the ball and do whatever they wanted to,” DuBose said. “This year, I felt like in our offseason, we really dedicated ourselves to playing four quarters. This season, I didn’t think we had played a complete game as of yet. I think tonight, we played a complete game.”
Central got its points in the first half on two touchdown runs by running back Jaxton Carson, one of 6 yards and the other for 5. The defense allowed just a 36-yard field goal and, the longest play of the night, a 58-yard touchdown run by Kingston Davis, who is committed to Michigan.
It’s a big win for region play, DuBose said, but he added that he expects Friday’s game wouldn’t be the only time he’d see his former team.
“We know we’re going to see Prattville again,” he said. “It happened last year, and we’re probably going to see them again in six, seven weeks, whatever it is.”
Friday at Garrett-Harrison Stadium
Prattville 3 7 0 0—10
Central 7 7 0 6—20
C—Jaxton Carson 6 run (Eric Powell kick); 8:20
P—A.J. Reed 36 field goal; 1:50
C—Carson 5 run (Powell kick); 8:33
P—Kingston Davis 58 run (Reed kick); 7:43
C—Jamal Couch 17 pass from Quan Weaver (kick failed); 2:28
Records: Prattville, 3-1, 1-1; Central, 4-1, 3-0. Next: Prattville, Friday at Carver-Montgomery; Central, Friday vs. Opelika at home.