It was about as routine of a game as Central could have expected for 44 minutes and 11 seconds. It hadn’t given up a point, and the offense had showed playmaking ability en route to a three-score lead. It was Central’s game to lose.
And it almost did.
Auburn scored three touchdowns in the final 3:49 of regulation to force overtime and briefly took a three-point lead on a field goal. But new Central quarterback Quan Weaver, who moved from wide receiver after Zion Webb’s season-ending injury, was the player of the game — and made its biggest play.
On Central’s first overtime possession, Weaver ran left on a broken play, scrambled 10 yards and fell into the end zone to give the Red Devils a surprisingly-dramatic 27-24 win on the road.
The win left coach Jamey DuBose horse, barely able to express his pleasure — and displeasure — with the result.
“I have never been around anything like that in my 23 years,” DuBose managed after the game. “My hat’s off to Auburn. You have to make big-time plays in those moments. Finally, in overtime, we did. But we need to learn how to finish. We’re nowhere near where we need to be.”
Central led the game 21-0 with just three minutes, 49 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter in a game that had been surprisingly one-sided.
The Central defense had not allowed a point and had forced Auburn to turn the ball over on downs four times in the game. Blue-clad fans on the home side of the stadium had begun filing out, and Central was in run-out-the-clock mode when everything changed.
Instead, the Red Devils fumbled on third-and-8 near midfield, and Auburn’s Courtney Jimmerson recovered the ball at the 48-yard line and returned it 52 yards for a score to cut the lead to 21-7.
It may have been a meaningless score in a game that was otherwise controlled by Central, if not for two perfectly executed kicks by Auburn kicker Sage Ledbetter. Auburn recovered the ensuing onside kick after its score, and marched 49 yards to the end zone, ending on a 12-yard pass from Bradley Northcutt to Noah Barnes.
With the score 21-14 and still over three minutes left, Auburn still had three timeouts and looked set to kick the ball off to Central. Instead, Ledbetter laid a perfect pooch kick into no-man’s land, and Cordell Plott recovered it at the Central 33. Auburn running back Cedrick Clark ran 32 yards on two carries, and Northcutt took it the final 1 yard into the end zone for the improbable tie with just over two minutes remaining.
“All but the end, I thought the defense was spectacular,” DuBose said. “But life’s about adversity. Hopefully, this will be an educational moment for us.”
The defense responded in a big way in overtime, holding Auburn to 2 yards on three plays and a field goal by Ledbetter. Then Weaver extended what had already been an impressive debut as the starting quarterback with a 10-yard game-winning score.
Weaver was arguably the game’s top performer in its first three quarters.
He completed 5-of-8 for 120 yards and two touchdowns and rushed eight times for 40 yards before the break. He threw touchdown passes of 29 yards, a sweet over-the-shoulder lob to Justyn Ross, and 17 yards, a nice play-fake that resulted in a wide-open Jamal Couch. He finished 7-of-12 for 160 yards, two touchdowns and one interception through the air. He also had 14 carries for 68 yards and the game-winning score.
“He had a great game except for four minutes,” DuBose said with a smile. “He’s proven he can be a dependable quarterback for us. He’s got playmaking ability, and he showed that. He proved elusive in the open field.”
Central moved to 1-0 in Class 7A, Region 3, while Auburn dropped to 0-1. Central plays at R.E. Lee next Thursday, and Auburn hosts Enterprise.