ATLANTA — On the most important drive of Central’s showdown with Cedar Grove in the Cam Newton C1N Classic, Red Devils head coach Jamey DuBose turned to his inexperienced back-up quarterback to lead the charge.
Junior quarterback Trey Miles split series with senior Tucker Melton throughout Saturday night’s matchup with the Saints, but it was his final drive that stood out as simply spectacular. With Central trailing 20-17 and the clock down to 3:44, Miles orchestrated a 10-play drive that ended on a nine-yard touchdown pass to E.J. Williams to give Central an improbable 24-20 victory.
“We had to get it done. There were no excuses,” said Miles, who was 10-of-16 passing for 120 yards and one touchdown. “I knew they were blitzing, and I knew E.J. was one-on-one. I just had to sit in there and make the throw.”
Central’s final drive led by Miles was a harrowing series where it seemed one misstep could leave the Red Devils with their first 0-2 start since 2006.
The drive quickly turned do-or-die on a 4th-and-1 from the Central 42-yard line, but Miles called his own number and took off 10 yards to the left to move the chains. Miles and Joseph McKay broke off two long runs before a false start briefly halted the momentum — after that, it was Miles and McKay who again propelled the offense forward.
Central called timeout with 34 seconds showing on the clock and the ball nine yards away from the end zone. At that point, Williams heard the call and knew what was coming next.
“They told me I've got to make a play,” said Williams, who had six receptions for 56 yards and two touchdowns. “Big-time players make big-time plays in big moments. I just felt like I had a moment and made a big play. I couldn't have done it without my quarterback, Trey Miles.”
Even after Williams caught the touchdown and raced down the sideline in jubilation, the Red Devils were forced to hold their breaths. Cedar Grove’s offense had 279 yards of offense to its credit and 28 seconds to work with, meaning a worn-out Central defense needed one more stop.
After getting shredded by the Saints’ offense on the drive before the Miles-to-Williams touchdown, the Red Devils’ defense did what it needed to do.
Following an incomplete pass on first down, the Red Devils brought quarterback Austin Smith down on a sack to force the Saints to use a timeout. Smith threw another incompletion followed by an 11-yard pass that left Cedar Grove needing to hurry up and hike the ball.
The Saints were unable to snap the ball again, leading to a total eruption from the Red Devils’ players and fans.
For Central head coach Jamey DuBose, the victory was just what the doctor ordered after the team’s Week 1 loss to Hoover.
“You have to play through (the adversity) and find a way to win. That's what our guys did tonight,” DuBose said. “You look at last week — we had adversity hit us, and I think it got to us and we didn't handle it well. We had adversity happen tonight against another good team, and what did we do? We found a way to win.”
Melton and Miles evenly split series throughout the victory, and it was plays from both quarterbacks that helped the Red Devils overcome a slow start.
Central trailed Cedar Grove 13-0 in the second quarter, but there was no sign of panic from Melton during a 15-play drive. Melton ended the possession by lobbing a pass toward the end zone and toward Williams, who ran under the ball and extended his arms to make an outstanding catch.
William’s touchdown left the Red Devils down 13-7 with 5:03 until halftime.
After the Central defense stood tall with a three-and-out, Miles went to work with his most impressive drive of the first half.
Miles used speed to his advantage both in himself and among his teammates just minutes before the second quarter expired. Miles took four carries for 38 yards on the drive and also had two completions for 15 yards before Zion Morris ended the possession with a 7-yard touchdown run.
Miles was all smiles after the game, which ended at 12:38 a.m. local time. Although he and his teammates won’t have as long as usual to celebrate the victory, Miles plans to make the most of every second just as he did on Central’s final drive.
“It felt good,” Miles said. “We work hard each and every day, and it paid off tonight.”
Central 24, Cedar Grove 20
CEN — 0 14 3 7 - 24
CG — 7 6 0 7 - 20
CG — Austin Smith 26-yard pass to Janiran Bonner (XP good), 2:51
CG — Smith 44-yard pass to Coreyon Cone (XP no good), 9:44
CEN — Tucker Melton 16-yard pass to E.J. Williams (XP good), 5:03
CEN — Zion Morris 7-yard run (XP good), 0:45
CEN — Noah Pell 35-yard field goal, 0:20
CG — Chavon Wright 19-yard run (XP good), 9:04
CEN — Trey Miles 9-yard pass to Williams (XP good), 0:28