By Joshua Huff, sports editor
CENTER POINT – The best teams rise to the occasion when the lights shine the brightest.
For Center Point, a 2019 season filled with pleasant surprises reaches its capstone moment this Thursday when the Eagles conclude a three-game road schedule with a trip to face reigning Class 5A champion Central Clay County in a game that will decide the region crown and which team lies claim to a first round home playoff game.
And what a season it has been for the Eagles.
Center Point entered head coach George Bates’ second season at the helm in 2019 coming off a 6-6, 5-2 campaign that ended at the hands of Etowah in the second round of the playoffs.
“Making the playoffs is no longer a standard at Center Point High School,” Bates said to members of the Center Point Area Chamber of Commerce in August. “It’s just not. It is something we should do regardless. Our goal right now, one of our mantras is we want to make history … our goal this year is to make history. Of course, we want to win the state championship. To get to the state championship you’ve got to get to the semi-finals to get the opportunity to win the state championship. So, right now our goals, I tell the kids, is to make history. That (making history) is going to be for all Erwin, for all Center Point, all Eagles. That is going to be our goal for this year.”
Years from now, when football historians dust off tomes of high school football recaps, the slice of history that Bates yearns to obtain could very well trace its origins to Oct. 24, 2019.
Standing in the Eagles’ way is a Central Clay County team that enters the contest riding a two-game winning streak. That streak followings a two-game span in which the Volunteers fell to both Jasper and Mortimer Jordan. The Volunteers’ most recent victory, a 28-0 silencing of region power Sylacauga, just so happens to be their most impressive victory of the season.
The Volunteers have defeated their past two opponents by a combined score of 93-0.
Throughout this season, Central Clay County has averaged 28 points per game. On defense, the Volunteers only allow 12.8 points per game.
In the Volunteers’ lone region loss this season, Mortimer Jordan relied on the legs of quarterback Kourtlan Marsh. He rushed for 162 yards on 18 carries. He also passed for 191 yards on 11-of-17 attempts. He accounted for five total touchdowns on the night.
The Eagles have a complement of offensive weapons that can attack from both the air and the ground in much the same mold as the Blue Devils. Center Point quarterback Javon Davis has been lauded for his poise and smarts as he has steered the Eagles to a 7-2, 5-1 record this year.
“He’s a great kid,” Bates said of Davis after victory over Class 6A Homewood. “He’s a really cerebral guy. I want him to run the ball more than he did tonight. But he tried to use his arm more than his legs. We can correct that next week and take what the defense gives you.”
The most dynamic athlete on offense, Jayson Jones, has been a game changer for the Eagles. His 13 receptions for 152 yards against Homewood along with his go-ahead touchdown plunge in the final seconds encapsulates his ability to strike in the air and pound it on the ground.
As a result of those dynamic offensive weapons, Center Point’s offense has averaged 28 points per game and is threat for any team that it faces.
Yet while the offense receives most of the praise, the defense has quietly been the motor that has propelled the Eagles into the position that they are in. The defense allows only 15.3 points per game. The unit is second-best in the region behind only Central Clay County. The Eagles have given up just 27 total points since the beginning of October.
A victory for either team will solidify a home game in the first round of the playoffs. A Center Point loss, followed by a Mortimer Jordan win over Moody, will send the Eagles plunging into third place with a potential pairing to face host Alexandria.
“We think Center Point High School should always make the playoffs,” Bates said. “That wasn’t the goal for us this year, but it gets us to where we want to be. Right now, we want to be No. 1 in the region.”