Central-Phenix City running back Joseph McKay takes the handoff from Tucker Melton against Prattville on Friday night in Phenix City.

PHENIX CITY — Central knew it needed to get off to a fast and clean start to beat Prattville and advance to the semifinal round of the 7A playoffs.

The Red Devils did just that, and then leaned on the defense the rest of the way in a 24-6 win on Friday night, advancing the team to the state semifinals for the fifth straight year.

Central’s clamps-down defense held Prattville to just 186 yards of offense.

Despite beating Prattville (9-3, 4-3) earlier in the year by a score of 45-20, Central (11-1, 7-0) head Coach Jamey DuBose knew it would be a challenge to do so again.

“It’s difficult to beat a good team twice,” he said. “It’s even tougher when you’re playing a well-coached team with some great athletes.”

Despite starting the game on defense, Central was the first team to make a statement on the scoreboard. The Red Devils’ defense forced a turnover on downs at the 50 and then Joseph McKay did the rest.

He took the first play 40 yards and, three plays later, punched it in from the four-yard line to give Central a 7-0 lead with 7:31 left in the first quarter.

On the following drive the rain made its first impact on the game.

Prattville’s punter could not handle the wet ball cleanly and the punt was blocked. This gave Central the ball at the Prattville 30.

The Red Devils did not waste this golden opportunity and when McKay took it in from the five, they went up 14-0 with 3:06 left in the first quarter.

Searching for an answer, Prattville’s offense quickly marched down to the Central red zone before the drive fell apart.

Following a personal foul and a sack, the Lions faced third-and-40 from the 45. The drive came to an end when quarterback Kyle Kramer was sacked and lost the ball.

The Red Devils continued to take advantage of their opportunities and turned the turnover into a field goal to go up 17-0 with 7:35 left in the second quarter.

Desperate for an answer, Prattville had its best opportunity yet when a good return and a late hit on Central put the Lions at the Central 42.

They were able to take advantage of the opportunity when Jaden Kidd ran it in from the three to make it a 17-6 game with 3:09 left in the first half. This was the closest the score would get from then on as Central answered right back.

EJ Williams wasted no time in closing the door on a potential comeback by returning the kickoff all the way to the Lions’ 25. A few plays later he finished the drive off when he caught a 22-yard pass from quarterback Trevion Miles.

This was the last time either team would score and something DuBose was not pleased with, despite the poor weather condition.

“At the end of the day, you got to make plays. We probably could have put the ball up a little bit more but we we’re able to run the ball,” he said.

The Red Devils finished the day with 166 yards and two touchdowns on the ground.

Despite neither team scoring in the fina; two frames, both teams made it into the red zone in the second half. They just both turned it over.

On the opening drive of the third quarter Central marched all the way down to the Lions’ two-yard line before fumbling it away.

Prattville returned the favor two drives later when Kramer threw an interception in the Red Devils’ endzone.

This was the last opportunity the Lions had to close the gap between them and Central.

While the Central offense struggled in the second half, the team’s defense was dominant the entire game.

“Our defense played really well all game.” DuBose said. “We put it on our defense to continue to play.”

They rose to the challenge, giving up less than 200 yards of total offense and forcing two huge turnovers.

With the win tonight Central improved to 7-6 all-time against Prattville and kept its dream alive of repeating as 7A state champions.

“Excited to get back in the South championship game. Our goal was to compete for a championship and that’s what we get to do,” DuBose said.

Central will host Auburn High next week to see who advances to the championship game.

Central 24, Prattville 6

CHS — 14 10 0 0 — 24

PHS — 0 6 0 0 — 6

First quarter

CHS — McKay 4-yard run (XP good), 7:31

CHS — McKay 5-yard run (XP good), 3:06

Second quarter

CHS — Noah Pell 26-yard FG, 7:35

OHS — Kidd 3-yard run (XP no good), 3:09

CHS — Williams 22-yard reception from Miles (XP good), 2:00

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