PHENIX CITY -- While scoring is hardly official at spring games, all you need to know of how important it was for defending Class 7A champion Central High of Phenix City to not lose against 6A neighbor Eufaula happened in the third quarter of last Thursday’s once-again lightning-shortened affair at Garrett-Harrison Stadium.
Central Head Coach Jamey DuBose wanted his Red Devils to go for two as they trailed Ed Rigby’s Tigers in the third quarter. They did so successfully, taking a lead it would expand to 49-35 before play was halted for the second consecutive year after three periods.
When Central last took the field it was bludgeoning Thompson, 52-7, in the 7A title game at Auburn’s Jordan Hare Stadium to cap off a perfect season at 14-0. Thompson was led by quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa, an Alabama signee where he’ll join his brother, Tua. While that Central squad had many Division I signees, this one is expected to have its share, too.
Among the coaches seen just on the Eufaula sideline Thursday night at Phenix City were two from Mississippi State, including Special Teams Coordinator Joey Jones, the former head coach at South Alabama. Memphis Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks Coach Kevin Johns was there, as were Troy, Tuskegee, Alabama A&M, and several others on the Central sideline.
What may have caught the coaches’ eyes was the raw talent of Eufaula’s wide receiver combo of “Rah Rah” Thomas and Trez Blackshire.
Junior-to-be quarterback Hess Horne is the benefactor of Thomas coming out from basketball as the 6-foot, 3-inch junior-to-be caught three touchdown passes from Horne, totaling 174 yards. Horne actually threw a fourth TD to Blackshire on a 71-yard catch-and-run.
Eufaula trailed 21-0 when the Horne-to-Thomas connection began hooking up. Davis Wingate’s PAT was the first of three successful attempts.
Central led 28-7 before Eufaula made its charge.
First, it was a 58-yard Horne-to-Thomas pass. Before the first half ended, Eufaula’s Lemarion Johnson picked up a Red Devil fumble and returned it 34 yards to paydirt as Central’s lead was cut to 28-20.
Junior-to-be Horne and Blackshire, a senior-to-be, connected on their long-distance TD with 8:45 left in the third quarter. The two also hooked up for the two-point conversion and a tie game at 28-28.
Ty’Quan Laseter recovered another Central fumble and Horne connected with Thomas for an 82-yard score. Wingate’s PAT gave Eufaula a 35-28 lead with 6:46 remaining in the third.
Central would pull within 35-34 with 3:20 left in the period, and usually, if they reach the fourth quarter, coaches agree to play underclassmen only in the final period. Central went for two and led 36-34.
A fumble led to another Central score and the Red Devils tacked on another before the end of the period.
Tailback Zy Tennille appeared healthy as he prepares for his senior season.
While the defense was burned often in the passing game, its interior held strong at times, particularly against the Central second unit.
Central shut out six teams last season, including two in the 7A playoffs.