The key to Central-Phenix City’s victory over Auburn High on Friday night was simple: when in doubt, the Red Devils ran it out.
The Red Devils’ rushing attack could not be stopped Friday, as Central rolled up 368 rushing yards and five rushing touchdowns to fuel a 34-7 victory over Auburn High. The rushing attack was led by junior Joseph McKay, who had 221 yards and all five of the team’s scores.
“Joseph was big for us tonight,” Central head coach Jamey DuBose said. “Joe made some guys miss, and he outran a couple of guys. I’m proud of what Joe was able to accomplish, but Joe would tell you he can’t do it without that offensive line or the receivers blocking. I thought it was a total team effort on the offense.”
DuBose was spot-on about McKay’s attitude following his big night. McKay credited the big men up front for opening up the holes that allowed him to run wild and allowed Central to win its sixth consecutive region title.
“We controlled the line of scrimmage, first of all,” McKay said. “If we hadn’t controlled the line of scrimmage, we wouldn’t have been able to do what I did tonight. It’s all because of our offensive linemen.”
Red Devils’ lock-down D
While McKay and fellow Central tailbacks Zion Morris and Dexter Wright kept the Red Devils’ offense rolling, their counterparts on defense kept Auburn held back.
The Tigers’ offense had been trending up in the weeks leading up to Friday’s game, but Central made sure and shut down any hope of that continuing in the regular season finale. Auburn managed one scoring drive in the game, but Central managed to keep Aaron Diggs and the Tigers hemmed up for the most part.
Diggs managed 94 yards on 28 carries, but on two occasions he was stopped short on fourth-down conversion attempts that ended two important opportunities for Auburn to score. DuBose credited defensive coordinator Mark Hurt and the rest of the staff for their work in keeping a dangerous Tigers’ team from keeping up.
“Other than (Matthew Caldwell’s touchdown pass), we had a great game plan tonight. We held a good Auburn football team — who’s going to have a chance to make a run in the playoffs gain — at bay tonight,” DuBose said. “That running back they’ve got (Aaron Diggs) is an outstanding back. Auburn’s a good football team, and they’ve still got a good year left in front of them.”
Speaking of stellar defenses, the Lanett Panthers are showing why everyone in Class 1A should be worried about facing them this postseason.
Lanett added to a great season on Thursday, throttling Billingsley 56-0 to clinch its third consecutive region championship. The Panthers put the Bears away in the first half, allowing only five yards of offense while scoring 49 points themselves.
“We knew that our defense has been our strong point all year,” Lanett head coach Clifford Story said. “(Assistant coach Paul Pankey) did a great job of focusing on a lot of things we saw as far as counters and powers and stuff like that. We were just trying to beat them to the point of contact, and we did that.”
Story was particularly impressed with the play of Dametrious Johnson, who had a scoop and score from 23 yards out to put the Panthers up 21-0 in the first quarter. Story said the Panthers practiced turnover drills every day in the week leading up to Thursday’s matchup, and Johnson’s score gave the veteran head coach a chance to give Johnson some sound advice.
“I told him, ‘You see that practice makes perfect.’ All he could do was smile,” Story said. “It’s all about executing and being able to do the things we need to do to be able to move forward.”
Valley head coach Buster Daniel has harped on his team expecting to win a region championship because, “If you can believe it, you can achieve it.” On Friday, Daniel’s Rams achieved the goal they’ve had set for so long now.
The Rams took it to Charles Henderson on Friday, taking care of the Trojans 41-20. The win was highlighted by a huge night from sophomore running back BJ Baker, who rushed for 303 yards and all six of the team’s touchdowns in the win.
The Rams left themselves vulnerable to falling all the way to the third seed in Region 2-5A, but their performance Friday was more than enough to instead stand at No. 1. Daniel’s players checked off that regular-season goal — now, they’re setting their sights on something even bigger.
“This started last spring. We break it down every day to ‘Region champs,’ and … they’ve done it,” Daniel said. “We are going to make a playoff run now.”
Two local Rebels teams — Reeltown and Chambers Academy — entered Friday’s action undefeated with a huge non-region test in front of them. Neither team came out on top, but the outcome could prove worthwhile in the weeks to go.
Reeltown and Chambers Academy came up short in their regular season finales, as Reeltown was edged on the road by Ranburne 27-26 and Chambers fell to Bessemer Academy 42-20. Although both losses end the hopes of a perfect season, the games could be just what each squad needs as motivation to make a deep playoff run.
As Reeltown head coach Matt Johnson told the Outlook’s Lizi Arbogast, Johnson wants his players to keep this loss in mind as they move forward.
“Losing, it ain’t fun. It’s not supposed to be fun. I want them to hurt; I’m hurting. But I told them, ‘Don’t ever forget how you feel right now,’” Johnson said. “If we come to work and do what we’re supposed to do and we don’t spot a team 14 points in the first quarter, then they won’t ever feel that way again.”