PHENIX CITY, Ala – The Central Red Devils are one of the top high school football programs in Alabama. But the 2017 Red Devils hope to get over the one stumbling block that has ended their season the last two years, McGill-Toolen in the Alabama High School Athletic Association 7A state semifinals.
Central has reached the AHSAA 7A state semifinals two years in-a-row, only to be bounced by McGill-Toolen both years.
Red Devils head coach Jamey DuBose enters his fourth season in charge of the Central program. This year’s seniors were his first freshman class at Central, so everyone in the program knows what the standard is. “I think the biggest thing is, everybody knows the process better,” said DuBose.
“After three years, now going into four, now everybody’s comfortable with the process. They know what to do and they know what to expect and they know what’s expected of them,” said DuBose.
The Red Devils have been one of the most consistent teams in 7A under Dubose, 29-8 overall, including three straight 7A Region 2 titles, going 17-1 in region play in his three seasons.
Despite tremendous success, including the back-to-back trips to the semifinals, he expects more from this year’s team. “The last two years were great, but they’re not good enough,” said DuBose.
“This year is an opportunity to make a good, a great,” said DuBose.
The Red Devils take a business-like approach to the process DuBose has molded in his three years. “Every day for us is another job interview for this football program to be able to prove itself. This football program deserves to be in the state championship game,” said Dubose.
The only thing that has prevented that from happening is the Yellow Jacket program at McGill-Toolen. “We’ve played well enough through the entire season, with the exception of one game, one team, has kind of had our number for two years,” said Dubose.
Central hopes to change that this season.
“We think, and we hope, we have prepared enough this offseason to be able to get back to that point and redeem ourselves and get their finally,” said DuBose.
Central returns 11 total starters from the 2016 team that finished 10-2. Included in that mix, is five-star recruit and Under Armor All-American wide receiver Justyn Ross, who has narrowed his top five schools to Auburn, Alabama, Clemson, Florida and Florida State. Ross is joined by returning starters K.J. Brooks and Anthony Miles.
The quarterback duties will be split between junior Peter Parrish and sophomore Tucker Melton. “In our offense we want both of them to be able to play an anytime,” said DuBose.
The Spivey brothers, Jamaar and A’montae, are expected to handle the majority of carries at running back.
The Red Devils offensive line is anchored by Middle Tennessee State commit Jhalil Ryles. Central brings back all four of their starting defensive lineman. The linebacker corps will have to replace several starters, including Under Armor All-American Markail Benton, who now plays for Nick Saban at the University of Alabama.
DuBose chose not to have a preseason game this year, opting instead to have a bye week before the 7A playoffs start. It’s another part of the process for DuBose to have his team hungry at the start of the season.
“You know by that of going through three weeks of looking at each other and all summer of looking at each other, I think and I hope our guys will be really excited to get them out of the shoots and be able to play somebody else and hit somebody else and prove who we are,” said DuBose.
The tactic seems to already be working.
“Oh I can’t wait. I’m tired of hitting my teammates, it’s time to hit somebody else,” said offensive lineman Jahlil Ryles.
Central will open the regular season August 25 at home against Bob Jones, the first of seven regular season home games at Garrett-Harrison Stadium.