State Powers Still Alive in HS Semifinals

Jonathan Wallace and the Central-Phenix City Red Devils will face a tough and talented Prattville team Friday night.

Phenix City, Ala. – Central-Phenix City led by quarterback Jonathan Wallace raced out to a 20-0 first quarter lead over McGill-Toolen last Friday and coasted to a surprising 41-0 victory.

"That's the way we want to start every game," Wallace said. "We want to get out quick. We were able to do that. We were able to set a standard for the second half. That team never gave up. It showed through the regular season and the playoffs that they never gave up. They won some big games. They beat Daphne, and they beat Fairhope on a comeback. Just being able to get up quick and keeping the pedal to the metal helped us out."

Central ran for almost 400 yards in the contest, but had the run and the pass going early on. Wallace was on fire in the first quarter hitting some underneath throws and a deep throw down the sideline as the Red Devils scored 14 points within the first five minutes of the contest.

"That was straight man-to-man," Wallace said of his long pass, "And it was whoever could make a play better. I threw it to his back side. It was kind of back-shoulder throw. He made a great catch."

An interception set up Central's third touchdown of the quarter. From there the Red Devils pounded it on the ground with Wallace, Gerald Walker and Skyler Moore. The Central offense had an obvious speed advantage over the McGill defense on the perimeter.

"It's just a numbers game," Wallace explained. "We try to find a numbers game. We try to find the mismatches and attack those."

Wallace had a pair of rushing touchdowns in the first quarter, and he threw a touchdown pass in the closing seconds of the second quarter.

"That was really big," he said. "We got set back a lot the drive before, which we should have scored on. Being able to score in right before the half was big."

For McGill-Toolen and first-year head coach Bart Sessions, the loss ended the season with an 11-2 record in which the Yellow Jackets won the region championship.

"I'm so proud of the way these kids fought," Sessions said. "We'll look back three or four weeks from now, but tonight it's tough for these kids to look back on the entire season. As a coach that's been around for a little while, I know that there a lot of people who would be happy to have 11-2 seasons. We're just happy about the way they played. Beating Daphne, which is obviously a great program, beating Fairhope, another great program, and winning one of the toughest regions in the state of Alabama. We're extremely proud of our kids, and once again, we want to congratulate Central."

Central head coach Woodrow Lowe was complimentary of his quarterback, but added that his team will need to throw the ball better to win the next two ball games.

"He's a great kid," Lowe said of Wallace. "He's impeccable. He really is. He's the real deal. I can't say a whole lot. It is what it is.

"On offense we knew that we could run the football," Lowe added. "We kind of stuck to that. We've got to start throwing it the ball a lot better. We did early in the year throw it a whole lot better. But we were able to complete some passes. We're going to get better."

Wallace, 6-2 210, committed to Southern Miss on July 30 and is still receiving attention from other schools. However, he said that he's firmly committed to the Golden Eagles.

"Other schools are calling, but I'm really firm with what I have right now," Wallace explained. "I'm happy where I'm going. That's just what it is right now.

"I like everything," he added of Southern Miss. "I went up there to see them play UCF, and it was great environment. The coaches and players were really excited, and it was just a great atmosphere. They run pretty much the same stuff that we do, so it's not going to be too much of a transition. It may be a little more put on me with plays and stuff like that, but that's just part of it. I'm just excited about my decision.

"I talk to Coach (Blake) Anderson, the quarterback coach, and Coach (Gary) Camp, my recruiting coordinator, and also the offensive line coach (Chris Kapilovic). It's good being in touch with him being my offensive line coach."

Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn went to see Wallace play recently.

"There's no offer, so there's nothing really to get happy about if there's no offer," Wallace noted. "UCF is still calling. I miss calls sometimes from other schools, and I really don't try to return them. I'm fine where I'm at."

For Wallace and the Red Devils, the next step is a visit Prattville. The Lions have knocked Central out of the playoffs each of the last two seasons.

"We're looking forward to that game so we can get revenge on them," Wallace said.

Sessions said it should be a great semifinals matchup.

"It's a great Central team," he said. "Our hats are off to them. All of kids came out and we were ready to play. They competed, but Coach Lowe had those kids ready to go. They had the home crowd juiced up and they played tremendous. It's going to be a great semi-final with them and Prattville, two great, deserving programs."

Around the state…

While Central-Phenix City travels to Prattville on Friday night, the other 6A matchup is Oxford at Hoover. Oxford was victorious against undefeated and top-ranked Mountain Brook 35-28 in triple overtime while Hoover knocked off undefeated Hillcrest-Tuscaloosa 21-14.

History is on the side of Prattville and Hoover in the semifinals as those two programs have won nine of the last 11 6A State Championships. Neither Oxford nor Central has won a state championship since 1993. Coincidentally, they both won that year as Oxford was the 5A champs and Central the 6A.

In 5A quarterback Jameis Winston looks to keep Hueytown rolling against a tough Vigor defense loaded with talented prospects. Vigor has five shutouts this year and has held nine opponents to 10 points or less. In the North, quarterback Ben Craft, a UAB commitment, leads Briarwood on the road against an undefeated Hartselle.

Anniston will look to knock off Oneonta for the second time this year in 4A North, while Jackson is the favorite to keep on rolling at home against UMS-Wright in the South.

In another rematch game, Handley draws region opponent Clay County at home in 3A South action. Madison Academy travels to Rogers, which pulled off a stunning upset of Piedmont in the quarterfinals.

Undefeated Elba takes on Houston commitment QB Austin Grammer and American Christian while Tanner travels to Lineville in 2A. Sweet Water makes the short trip to Linden, and Ragland travels to Marion County in 1A.

Central-Phenix City at Prattville
Oxford at Hoover

Vigor at Hueytown
Briarwood Christian at Hartselle

UMS-Wright at Jackson
Oneonta at Anniston

Clay County at Handley
Madison Academy at Rogers

Elba at American Christian
Tanner at Lineville

Sweet Water at Linden
Ragland at Marion County

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