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Dothan falls in close one to Central-Phenix City

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Dothan’s Raymon Blackmon (0) runs for a gain as Central Red Devil defenders pursue during a game at Rip Hewes Stadium on Thursday.

It was a battle of contrasting offensive styles in Thursday’s Dothan-Central of Phenix City top 10 battle at Rip Hewes Stadium.

On one side was Central’s mostly-pass oriented, big-play attack. The other was Dothan’s grind-it-out running game.

While Dothan posted 22 more offensive plays and rolled up 330 total yards, the Wolves couldn’t overcome the Red Devils big-strike offense.

Central, behind 15 plays of double-digit yardage, including a 57-yard TD pass and a 58-yard run that set up another score, outlasted Dothan 35-28.

“We did a lot of good things,” Dothan head coach Jed Kennedy said. “We are not a program that counts moral victories. We played good in spots but just didn’t make enough plays to win the game. Obviously as a program, we are progressing. I am proud of our kids and we certainly are getting better every week.”

After trailing 21-7 at halftime, Dothan cut the margin to a one-score game twice, but the Red Devils answered with a relatively quick scoring drive both times. They also matched Dothan’s first score in the first half.

“Obviously, they are very explosive,” Kennedy said. “They have Division-I prospects all over the field and they present so many match-up problems and their quarterback is really good.

“That is not an offense you are going to stop. You just try to slow them down, but they hit some big plays on us. We thought we could control the clock and we did that. Ultimately, we didn’t make enough plays.”

The No. 5 ranked Red Devils improved to 5-2 overall and 4-1 in Class 7A, Region 3 play, while No. 8 Dothan fell to 5-2 and 3-2. It was the first top 10 game at Rip Hewes Stadium since 2008.

“We battled,” Central head coach Patrick Nix said. “Give Dothan a lot of credit. They are a good football team. They are very physical and they did a good job. Offensively, we made a lot of plays.

“Defensively, we just did enough to slow them down until we got completely worn down it seemed like at the end. Obviously, coming on the road in the region and getting a win is huge.”

Senior quarterback sensation Jaylen Epps paced the Red Devils, throwing for 254 yards off 16-of-20 passing with four touchdowns. He also had a 58-yard run that set up the game’s first score.

“He was tough,” Nix said. “He was a little banged up, but I thought he played pretty tough. He did some really good things. He protected the ball and put us in good situations.”

Dothan’s offense amassed 298 yards rushing as it spread the attack behind Raymon Blackmon, Octavious Thomas, Tamarion Peterson, Zack Walker and AJ Alexander. The Wolves completed just one pass in three attempts for 33 yards.

The Wolves had four drives of 10 and 11 plays in the game, scoring on three of those possessions, but could only convert one of their four first-half drives, while the Red Devils posted scores on three of its first four to build a 21-7 halftime lead.

Dothan opened the game with an 11-play 52-yard drive to move inside the red zone, but Central’s AJ Harris stopped Peterson short on 4th-and-2 at the 18 to snuff out the threat.

The Red Devils scored in just five plays with Epps’ 58-yard run up the middle sparking the series. Karmello English scored on a 1-yard run two plays after Epps’ big run. Charles Paul added the point after kick to make it 7-0 with 2:59 left in the first quarter.

The Wolves tied it on the ensuing series with an eight-play, 80-yard drive. Blackmon capped the possession with a 6-yard scoring run. Wesley Farmer booted the extra-point off the hold of Adam Watford to make it 7-7 with 11:26 left in the second quarter.

But Central answered with another quick five-play scoring drive. Epps threw a 23-yard TD pass to English on 2nd-and-21 for the score. The TD came after completions of 17 and 39 yards. Paul’s PAT kick made it 14-7.

Dothan’s offense, behind penalties and a high snap that resulted in a 12-yard loss, sputtered in the next two series, failing to earn a first down on both. It was the only possessions out of eight the Wolves didn’t have a first down. Dothan earned 22 first downs overall in the game.

Central scored on another quick series midway in the second quarter to go up 21-7, this time in three plays. Epps fired deep down the middle to Thenorris Thomas, who beat his man in one-on-one coverage on a 57-yard TD reception with 4:04 to go in the half.

Dothan, behind its single wing offense, scored three times in the second half, but Central answered after the first two to stay two steps ahead of the Wolves

“Staying up two scores was big, especially in that kind of offense to make them have to do some things to try and catch up,” Nix said. “There at the end, they ran out of time.”

The Wolves closed the gap to 21-14 on a Blackmon 1-yard run to cap a 10-play, 78-yard drive and on an ensuing Farmer point after kick with 4:39 to go in the third.

Central, though, answered with its longest drive of the night, a 12-play series that covered 80 yards. Epps threw a 17-yard TD pass to Jaren Wiley to make it 28-14.

Dothan scored on the next series on a 10-play, 56-yard march. Peterson tallied the touchdown on a 1-yard run. Farmer was again true on his PAT kick, making it 28-21 with 7:44 left in the game.

Central again matched the score as Epps threw a quick loft 1-yard TD pass to Romello Green off the edge of the left side with 4:17 left to complete an eight-play 36-yard drive that was set up by a 32-yard kick return.

“It was a read,” Nix said of the TD pass. “If they don’t cover it, we throw it and if they do, we run it. They didn’t cover it, so Jaylen did a great job of throwing it.”

Dothan marched down field on an 11-play, 69-yard scoring drive with Blackmon scoring his third touchdown of the night on a 4-yard run with exactly a minute left.

However, Central’s Wiley recovered an onside kick attempt and the Red Devils ran out the remaining clock.

Dothan tries to quickly regroup as its hosts rival Enterprise next Friday at Rip Hewes. Central-Phenix City travels to Lee of Montgomery next week.

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