By Wil Crews
After last weeks’ disappointing loss against the Gardendale Rockets, the Smiths Station Panthers looked to bounce back, opening region play at home against rival Central Phenix City Red Devils this past Friday.
After starting the season 0-2, the typically formidable Central looked unusually vulnerable. But, looks can be deceiving. The Devils executed a skillful – almost sinful – game plan to defeat the Panthers 35-7 for their 12th straight victory in the series.
The Devils received the opening kick and began the first drive of the game at their own 40. The Panthers appeared motivated on defense early – jumping around and clapping at the offense. With what was probably the most resistance the Devils saw all night, Central quickly faced a fourth and four before even achieving a first down. First year Central head coach Pat Nix established his never-settling mentality from there. The Devils went for – and got – the first down, before moving methodically down the field. The Devils found themselves with another fourth down – this time 1-yard from the goal line – and went for it again. The first touchdown of the game went to Central’s Joseph McKay after the ensuing one-yard run. The Panther defense was jumping no more. After a nearly eight-minute drive, the Devils lead 7-0 with 4:18 left in the first quarter.
While the Panther defense originally appeared confident, the same could not be said for the Smiths Station offense. After a nice kickoff return to the 34-yard-line, the Panthers only managed to go backwards. Three plays later, a punt; and Central had the ball again.
From there, the first half would continue in a blur of dominating play – on both sides of the ball – from the Red Devils. Set up by some sharp passing plays, Central’s Zion Morris carried the ball three yards into the end zone for the second score of the game; 14-0 Central. After intercepting Smiths quarterback Cory Minton, Central’s Trey Miles rushed into the end zone; 21-0 Central.
The following possession was Smiths’ best effort the first half, but the Panthers were thwarted in the red zone. On the Panthers’ next possession, backed up against their own goal line, a fumbled ball was recovered in the end zone by the Red Devils; 28-0 Central. After managing only 39 rushing yards with zero completions and three turnovers in the first half, the Panthers headed into the locker room looking for answers. Halftime. Finally.
In the second half, the Panthers’ play improved but they were unable to ever threaten the Red Devil’s lead. Central’s Trey Miles got his second rushing touchdown of the game with 0:01 left in the third quarter and Smiths’ Minton scored on a 15-yard run with 5:15 to go in the fourth.
Final score: Central 35 – Smiths Station 7.
In total, the Panthers had four turnovers, two of which led to Central scores. On a positive note, the Panthers managed to score their first points against the Red Devils since 2017 and Minton led the way on offense with over 100 yards rushing and the Panthers’ only touchdown. Seven Red Devils finished with double digit rushing yards and starting running back Zion Morris led the way.
Central moves to 1-2 after a difficult early season schedule. Smiths Station also moves to 1-2 and will look for their first region in 2020 at home against Prattville next week. The game is scheduled for Friday, Sept. 13 at 7 p.m. at Panther Stadium.