MONTGOMERY — It took Central-Phenix City running back Zion Morris exactly one play to set the tone against Jeff Davis on Saturday.
Morris caught the game’s opening kickoff and set his sights on the end zone, which he quickly found once he raced to the middle of the field, found a seam down the sidelines and charged past the Volunteers’ defenders on a 79-yard kickoff return.
It was just the start of a big afternoon for the Red Devils and for Morris, who rushed for 55 yards and scored twice in the Red Devils’ 37-6 victory. Morris was an important part of a Central offense that rolled up 313 first-half yards en route to the team’s ninth straight win over the Volunteers.
"It was huge," Central head coach Patrick Nix said. "Getting the tone set like that from the very get-go, getting the guys in the game and getting the crowd in the game (was big). He set the tone pretty quick, got everybody into it and got everyone excited. I thought it was a really, really big way to start the game."
Morris had just enough time to catch his breath before Jeff Davis (0-3, 0-1) punted the ball back to the Red Devils and the senior running back went back to work. Morris took five carries on Central’s first offensive possession of the game and made the most of each one, piling up 46 yards and finishing the drive with a 14-yard touchdown run to leave the score 14-0 with 3:12 left in the opening quarter.
Central (2-2, 2-0) didn’t lack for big plays in the game’s opening 12 minutes, but by comparison the second quarter was packed with outstanding moments.
While the Central defense continued to stifle Jeff Davis, the Red Devils’ offense went to work picking apart the Volunteers. Central quarterback Caleb Nix orchestrated a seven-play, 69-yard drive and ended it in style by hitting Jackson Meeks just outside the end zone, allowing Meeks to race in on an 18-yard score.
Trey Miles stepped in at quarterback on Central’s next drive and picked up right where Nix left off, as his first drive behind center was a success and ended promptly when the senior raced to the left corner of the end zone for an eight-yard touchdown run to put Central up 28-0 with 5:33 to go before halftime.
Miles and Nix once again split the quarterback duties for Central effectively. Nix was 5-of-7 with 64 passing yards and one score, while Miles was 5-of-6 with 116 passing yards and one touchdown along with two runs for 19 yards and another score.
"Honestly, I think it starts up front. I thought we played really good on the offensive line. That really helped us run the ball and throw the ball and do whatever we wanted to do," Patrick Nix said. "Zion ran the ball really good, and the quarterbacks threw the ball good. Jackson had another big day. I think overall the whole group played really good, not just one or two guys."
As if the situation wasn’t bad enough for the Volunteers, Meeks, Miles and Central defensive back Siraj Muhammad made it worst before the second quarter ended.
Muhammad gave Central its first turnover with 3:55 left before halftime on a third-down interception, which gave Miles and Co. the ball on the Jeff Davis 49-yard line. Miles couldn’t corral Central’s first-down snap but recovered nicely, eventually setting his feet and firing downfield toward Meeks and a Volunteer in coverage.
Meeks showed off his athleticism by going up, grabbing the ball and taking off for a huge touchdown to put Central ahead 35-0. Meeks ended the day with six receptions for 139 yards and two touchdowns.
The Red Devils looked destined to go into the locker room with a five-touchdown lead, but Muhammad wasn’t done just yet. After Jeff Davis’ third three-and-out of the afternoon, Muhammad raced in on the would-be punt and blocked the attempt, sending it backward toward the end zone.
Central tried to recover the ball but couldn’t do so before it rolled out of the back of the end zone, resulting in a safety and a 37-0 lead with 3:39 left in the first half.
Central’s defense never let Jeff Davis create any semblance of a rhythm on offense in the first half. The Red Devils held the Volunteers to only 19 yards of offense in the first half — the product of 20 rushing yards and a one-yard loss in the passing game.
The Volunteers finally broke through with a 14-play, 90-yard drive to open the third quarter capped off by quarterback Chase Ford’s one-yard touchdown run. That, however, was just about all Jeff Davis had to celebrate for the rest of the game.
The Volunteers ended the day with 126 yards of offense.
Central returns home Friday for an important region showdown with Enterprise. Jeff Davis has a region game as well at Auburn High.
"I think our guys realize it's a big week this week," Nix said. "Enterprise is playing extremely good. It's another big region game. We're 2-0 in the region right now, and at the end of the day that's all that matters. We're 2-0, and we've got to get ready on a little bit of a short week by getting our bodies back ready and our minds back ready to play a really big game."
Central 37, Jeff Davis 6
CEN — 14 23 0 0 - 37
JD — 0 0 6 0 - 0
CEN — Zion Morris 79-yd return (XP good), 11:44
CEN — Morris 14-yd run (XP good), 3:12
CEN — Jackson Meeks 18-yd reception from Caleb Nix (XP good), 10:25
CEN — Trey Miles 8-yd run (XP good), 5:33
CEN — Meeks 49-yd reception from Miles (XP good), 3:39
JD — Chase Ford 1-yard run (XP no good), 4:36