By Jon Benton
Trussville Tribune Sports
CENTER POINT — The Center Point Eagles dropped their 10th game of the season and 17th straight.
But for a while they gave the Gardendale Rockets some concern.
The Eagles hung with the Rockets early before succumbing 56-26 in the Class 6A, Region 6 game.
After a 66-yard touchdown throw from Eagles senior quarterback Chris Baker to Quindell Rhodes with 35 seconds gone in the second half, the score was just 29-20 Gardendale.
However, the Rockets were not content with this lead. a few minutes later, Gardendale quarterback Michael Crowder found Andrew Freeman in the end zone for a 24-yard touchdown.
Center Point drove all the way to the red zone following this touchdown, but the Eagles fumbled at the 5-yard-line, and Gardendale recovered.
On the ensuing possession, Crowder threw his second touchdown when Conner Howell broke wide open and scored from 79 yards out to make the game 43-20.
On Center Point’s next drive, Baker threw an interception to Josh Hubbard. Hubbard returned the interception 70 yards for another Gardendale touchdown.
After another Baker interception, this one caught by Roderick Dancy, Jacob Wright pounded the ball in from the 16-yard line to make the game 56-20 by the end of the third quarter.
During the first half, Center Point (0-10) took advantage of Gardendale mistakes. With less than two minutes gone in the 1st quarter, Center Point cornerback LeBoise Deru recovered a fumble and brought it 85 yards to the house, giving Center Point an early 8-0 lead.
After scoring on an eight-yard rush by Omari Burton, and forcing a three-and-out, Gardendale appeared to have momentum back. But the Rockets fumbled on the next possession, and Baker would score on the ensuing Center Point possession by juking defenders on a 35-yard touchdown rush to grab the lead back for the Eagles.
Gardendale would score three more times in the first half after going behind 14-8. The first was a nine-yard touchdown rush by running back Demetrius King. King would score again on an 18-yard rush less than five minutes later.
With less than a minute left in the half, Crowder found a wide-open Conner Howell in the end zone for a 40-yard touchdown reception. This gave the Rockets a 29-14 lead heading into the second half.
For Baker’s credit, he had a memorable game to end his high school career. While he was inefficient, finishing 13 for 33 passing, he did record 247 yards passing and two touchdowns. On the ground, he tallied 111 yards on nine carries.
Coach Shawn Gregory was upbeat after his team’s performance. “They didn’t quit. They understand that this is a bonding year.” Center Point was a very young team this year, and so the Eagles should see a noticeable improvement next year.
Speaking of his seniors, Gregory said “We’re not finished yet. We’ve got to get into academics, make sure we finish strong there.”
Gardendale (7-3) will qualify for the 6A state playoffs, likely as the No. 2 team and host a first-round playoff game.