Game of the Week: Central at Opelika
78TH MEETING BETWEEN THE RED DEVILS AND BULLDOGS; KICKOFF IS SET FOR FRIDAY AT 7 PM CENTRAL
The Central Red Devils, under new Head Coach Patrick Nix, gear up for the school’s longest running rivalry. A battle against the Opelika Bulldogs.
“What makes it so much fun is playing a team of high caliber like Central,” said Opelika senior running back Eric Watts. “Really going up against great competition.”
Class 7A Central and 6A Opelika meet up for the 78th time. The dominant Red Devils won the past four rivalry games, but this year Central got off to a slow (3-2) start.
“We’ve gotten to know them a lot better. Got to know us a lot better,” said new Central Head Coach Patrick Nix. “Trying to get guys in the right places and see what are strengths are and play to those strengths.”
“We’re getting everything right. Our jobs and our assignments,” said Central senior offensive tackle Nathan Bishop. “We’re there. We know where we’re supposed to be, and I think it’s all clicking.”
“He had to have a lot of patience with us because we have our moments sometimes,” said Central senior defensive back Nate Carpenter. “He’s the right coach for us to get us right and get us all together.”
Central’s offense runs a two-quarterback system with athletic skill players, including running back Joseph McKay. Opelika counters with senior quarterback Malik Finley, who won the starting role this fall and electric running back Eric Watts.
“We see a good running back when we do good versus good,” said Opelika Head Coach Erik Speakman. “We have three good running backs. They have two that we’ve seen on film, but they have a lot of good players.”
“Joseph McKay played rec league ball with us when we were younger, so we know his strengths and how he runs the ball,” said Opelika senior defensive tackle Jakai Stephens.
“We’ve got two backs that they’re going to have to tackle the whole game,” said Nix. “For us it’s nice. A good comfort knowing you can give it to those guys.”
The Red Devils and Bulldogs are confident in their defense, especially up front. This rivalry comes down to turnovers and playing a full game.
“Something we’ve struggled with part of the year this year is playing a good second half,” said Nix. “We’ve felt like we’ve played a better second half this week.”
“This group has done a good job of getting better each week. We still need to work on some things. Not turn the ball over. Communicating on defense. Some small stuff that can be fixed, but I like where we are.”
Central and Opelika face off at Bulldog Stadium on Friday at 8 p.m. EST.