By Joshua Huff, sports editor
KIMBERLY — An eerie fog hovered over Jimmie Trotter Stadium on Friday night as Center Point looked to dispel years of ineptitude and book its first Class 5A semifinal appearance in program history.
It was as if the fog portended an evening of woe as the Eagles’ season came to a close, 32-14, in the quarterfinals at the hands of a Mortimer Jordan team that has left behind a season-long trail of disparaged opponents in its continued warpath through Class 5A.
“That’s a bunch (Mortimer Jordan) that understands the intensity and magnitude of round after round,” Center Point head coach George Bates said. “We have to go through our growing pains to understand just what it takes to get into the semifinals.”
Center Point fell victim to the wrath of the Blue Devils from the onset.
Following a 20-yard Jaylen Taylor run to open the game, the Eagles’ promising opening drive came to a screeching halt after quarterback Javon Davis threw his first interception of the night on a fourth and seven pass that floated past the unsuspecting Taylor and into the waiting arms of Logan Duffner.
Unlike the Eagles’ second round victory over Scottsboro, where in which Center Point opened the game with a fumble, there would be no plugging of the drain for the Eagles. After Mortimer Jordan failed to capitalize on the interception thanks in large part to the Eagles’ defense, Davis would promptly throw his second pick of the first quarter to none other than Duffner.
Mortimer Jordan made sure Center Point paid the price this time.
Behind quarterback Kourtlan Marsh, the Blue Devils marched down the field and scored on a one-yard Marsh keeper for the go-ahead touchdown. The Eagles’ misfortune would only increase, as they fumbled the ensuing kickoff as the first quarter expired.
Virtually unstoppable on the night, Marsh recorded his second touchdown following the fumble recovery on a 33-yard run on fourth and three that cut right through the heart of the Eagles’ defense.
Trailing 15-0, and in need of anything to stop the bleeding, Center Point sent its offense back out onto the field in the hope that one of its playmakers could break loose and create some magic. Yet, it seemed as if the good times had come to an end. The Eagles would be forced to punt, and the Blue Devils proceeded to march down the field yet again and score on a Marsh 9-yard touchdown run.
Marsh rushed for 151 yards on 21 carries with three touchdowns. He passed for 95 yards with one touchdown.
Center Point managed to cobble together a semblance of a drive in the waning moments of the first half; however, with the ball at Mortimer Jordan’s 10-yard line, Jayson Jones would throw the Eagles’ third interception of the first half, which ended any hope of quelling the growing angst. And just who snagged that interception in the endzone? Duffner. His third of the game.
“In eight years as a head coach, I’ve never experienced a half where everything that can go wrong, went wrong,” Bates said.
Little would go Center Point’s way in the second half as it witnessed its season painfully come to a close.
Marsh would drive Mortimer Jordan down the field on its opening possession of the second half. He hit Garrison McCleney on a 28-yard touchdown pass to increase the Blue Devils’ lead to 29-0. Center Point would get on the board for the first time late in the third quarter on a 9-yard touchdown pass from Davis to Jones, 29-8.
Mortimer Jordan would then connect on a 20-yard field goal on its next possession. The Eagles followed with yet another touchdown after a 67-yard touchdown pass from Davis, but it proved too late as the Blue Devils would bleed the clock and stamp their ticket into the semifinals.
For Center Point, the loss concludes consecutive seasons in which it has made deep runs into the playoffs. This proceeds multiple years of subpar play that saw the Eagles win just two games in a three-year span before the arrival of Bates.
“We let them know that we’re going to stick with them through the good, bad and different,” Bates said of how he and his coaching staff turned the program around. “To be a young man, you have to go through stuff like this. It’s tough. It’s tough to do what we do. We’re hard on them in the classroom and everything. I want them to be proud. They’ve done something that other classes have not been able to do. They were a laughing stock for a while. To do what they’ve done at this point, man, I’m proud of them.”