The Central Red Devils leaned on a dominant defense, a strong running game and a timely passing game to dispatch of Fairhope in Friday’s first-round 7A playoff matchup. The Red Devils (10-1) topped the Pirates (6-5) in Phenix City.
“A good night, but there is always room to get better,” Central coach Jamey DuBose told the CHSREDDEVILS stream on the Mixlr app following the victory. “There is always room to improve, and we’ve got to do that. This is one win. There have been a lot of teams that have gotten far here at Central. To separate yourself and make yourself a better team, you have got to really keep going.”
Fairhope was coming off a strong performance against McGill-Toolen in the regular-season finale when the Pirates went on the road and just lost 27-20 to 7A’s top-ranked team. The defending state champions from Central proved a much tougher opponent for Fairhope though.
Fairhope picked up a first down on the opening drive of the game, but a sack by BJ Randolph stalled the drive and the Pirates were forced to punt.
“Our defense played really well tonight,” DuBose said.
A good punt made the Red Devils start the drive from the 13-yard line. Facing a third-and-seven, senior quarterback Tucker Melton flipped the field with a 41-yard completion to senior Jon Stephens.
Junior Joseph McKay capped the first Red Devil drive of the night with a touchdown from 28 yards out with 7:28 left in the first quarter.
After the defense forced another punt, Central’s offense went back to work on the ground, and this time it was junior running back Zion Morris with the touchdown. Morris scored from 13 yards and gave Central a 14-0 lead with 3:35 left in the first quarter.
The 14-0 score stood through final whistle of the first quarter, but McKay needed just one play in the second quarter to extend the lead by seven more. The nine-yard touchdown run put the Red Devils up 21-0.
Fairhope managed to find some momentum on the following drive with a long drive capped with a Cyline Koen touchdown run to trim the lead to 21-7 with 6:44 left before the half. The Pirate defense responded and forced Central’s first punt of the game.
The Central defense turned the momentum back around as they forced a punt attempt. The Fairhope long snapper fired one over the punter’s head, and Central’s Nick Lewis jumped on the loose ball on the Pirate 14-yard line.
The Pirates held Central out of the end zone, but Noah Pell banged a 30-yard field goal through the uprights with 2:33 left in the second quarter for a 24-7 lead.
A fumble on the ensuing Fairhope drive handed the ball back to the Red Devils in positive territory at the Pirate 26. A nine-yard pitch and catch from Melton to Peter Jakes and a nine-yard run by McKay set Central and Melton up for some magic from the eight-yard line.
The snap on second-and-goal sailed past Melton, but he retreated to scoop it up and quickly found his tight end Jared Jackson in the end zone for another touchdown with 35 seconds left before intermission. The play deflated any hopes of a Pirate upset as Central took a 31-7 lead into the locker room.
After a scoreless third quarter, Central added to its lead with a Trey Miles 16-yard touchdown run with 6:19 left in the game. Central made it 45-7 with 4:32 left in the fourth quarter on a 10-yard pass from Melton to Jakes.
The Red Devils will host Prattville in the second round next week after the Lions defeated Theodore 24-17 in a double overtime thriller on Friday night on the road. Central defeated Prattville on Sept. 13, 45-20 in Phenix City.
“We have to humble ourselves after a win,” DuBose said. “Enjoy it for 24 hours, a couple of days. Get to Sunday and you have to put it behind you. You have to get ready for the next one. You have got to have a short memory. You have to keep humbling yourself to know that I have to get back to work.”
Central 45, Fairhope 7
F — 0 7 0 0 — 7
C — 14 17 0 14 — 45
C — Joseph McKay 28-yard run (XP good), 7:28
C — Zion Morris 13-yard run (XP good), 3:35
C — McKay 9-yard run (XP good), 11:54
F — Cyline Koen 3-yard run (XP good), 6:44
C — Noah Pell 30-yard FG, 2:33
C — Jared Jackson 8-yard reception from Tucker Melton (XP good), :35
C — Trey Miles 16-yard run (XP good), 6:19
C — Peter Jakes 10-yard reception from Melton (XP good), 4:32