The Lions (3-0, 2-0 Region 4-AAA) capitalized on an early Bremen (1-1) fumble, went up 7-0 and would never trail in the game.
"For our program to be 3-0 is huge. I don't know how long it's been since Central has been 3-0. That's a credit to these kids and what we're asking them to do. It's a good start, but the biggest game is next week — the next one," Central coach Grant Chesnut said.
It is the first time the Lions have started a season 3-0 since 1988 — which was the last of six straight seasons of starting 3-0 — and they did it by always finding a way to keep the lead every time Bremen tried to come back.
The scoring started with Central sophomore quarterback Wesley Long sneaking in from the one-yard line following a Bremen fumble early in the first quarter.
Bremen answered back on the following drive, going 73 yards in 11 plays, capped by a one-yard run from the Blue Devil quarterback Trent McClure — and the game's tone was set early.
The Lions regained the lead on a 17-yard run from Curtis Davenport on their next possession to go back up, 14-7.
Following a Bremen punt, senior Sean Stassie came up with an interception and gave the Blue Devils the ball back. Bremen capitalized off the Central turnover, as Zach Williams ran off the left tackle for a 22-yard touchdown run, tying the game back up at 14-all.
"We made the adjustments, just fundamental adjustments. There really wasn't any adjustments, [we] just played better. I'm proud of our guys for the way they fought back. We came back and gave ourselves a chance to win on two occasions. The execution [hurt us]. A lot of teams would have folded the tent. I'm proud of our kids for fighting," Bremen coach Ricky Tolleson said.
On its final drive of the half, the Lions regained a lead they would take into the break after Jayleen Terry broke out up the middle for a 17-yard touchdown run. The missed extra point put the Lions up by six after two quarters, 20-14.
The Lions would force another Bremen fumble, this time Austin Daniel came up with the recovery. Again, the Lions made the Blue Devils pay, as Terry found the end zone for a second time on a 10-yard run for the 27-14 advantage — the biggest of the game.
After another one-yard touchdown run from McClure, the Blue Devils were back down six points and forced a Central punt. But the Blue Devils couldn't convert on a fourth-and-two, giving the ball back to the Lions. Both teams traded punts before Central scored again on an 18-yard run by Stephon O'Neal, regaining a 13-point lead and putting the game away.
The Blue Devils gave it one more chance, as they needed just four plays to go 54 yards before McClure found Stassie in the near corner of the end zone for a 14-yard touchdown pass to bring it to within a possession. But the onside kick was recovered by Central and the Lions came through with a big fourth-down pass from Long to Jacob Barnes to keep the drive alive and run out the clock.
The pass to Barnes was the second big play between quarterback and tight end, as they connected earlier on a 50-yard pass.
"We had a pretty good understanding of their coverage, but the biggest thing is we trust Wesley. We trust Jacob Barnes. Once again, they did a great job. I'm very proud of them. Big-time players make big-time plays when they have to. I'm very proud of those guys, two sophomores," Chesnut said.
For Bremen, it was the dagger that almost went its way. Safety Josh Johnson nearly tipped the ball — or came up with the interception — on the play, but it was just out of his reach.
"We made some plays and we've got some kids that can make those plays and we work on that part of our game. But we have to win games by working the clock and controlling the ball and running the football, blocking and tackling — and we didn't do a good job of that. We got the ball down the field in three plays, cut it to six [points] and had a shot on the onside [kick]," Tolleson said.
Terry led the Lions attack, as the sophomore fullback carried the ball 20 times for 124 yards and a pair of scores. O'Neal had 63 yards on nine carries and Davenport added another 51 yards on eight touches.
"Jayleen will wear you down with that big body of his. Now as the season goes on, he's kind of like that heavyweight boxer — the more he trains, the better shape he gets in. Hopefully, we're getting him to round the corner with his conditioning," Chesnut said.
On the other side, it was McClure leading the Blue Devils with 130 yards on 18 rushes and two touchdowns. The junior also went 3-for-6 through the air for 60 yards and a score.
"Trent leads our football team. He's a winner and he's a gamer and he loves those situations. He made a few mistakes, but I tell you, he's a good player and he's going to get better. He's just got to stay healthy. He's done a good job and I'm proud of him," Tolleson said.
Up next for Central is another non-region match, as it hosts Ringgold next week, while the Blue Devils enter region play at home against Chattahoochee County.
"We've got some work to do. We've got a good region opponent coming in here Friday night and it counts," Tolleson said.