Class 7A Semifinal Clash between Region 2 Rivals Auburn and Central-Phenix City Featured as AHSAA TV Network Playoff Game of the Week
Montgomery, AL – When Auburn faces Central-Phenix City Friday night at Garrett-Harrison Stadium in the semifinals of the AHSAA Class 7A football playoffs, it will mark the eighth meeting between the two East Alabama rivals in the last four years.
No doubt, the road to the Super 7 State Championships in Class 7A runs through Auburn or Phenix City.
The Red Devils (10-2), coached by Patrick Nix, won the regular-season battle between the two schools 38-17 on November 14. That win earned Central the Region 2 crown and the right to host game two this week. Central and Auburn have met for four straight seasons. For Central, the semifinal appearance is its eighth in a row. This year’s matchup will mark head coach Keith Etheredge’s Auburn Tigers (11-1) fourth straight appearance in the semifinals. Auburn played in the 7A state finals in 2020, and 6A state finals in 2009. Central played in the 7A state title game in 2021, 2019, and 2018.
There is a rich tradition and high expectation at Central,” said Nix. “It is not just about the players and coaches. It is about the school, the community, the teachers, administration, the parents …”
Central comes into Friday’s contest riding a six-game winning streak with its last loss coming at the hands of Florida powerhouse IMG Academy. Opelika handed the Red Devils a 17-14 loss earlier in the season. Nix, who is 31-8 in three seasons at Central and 97-30 overall, led Pinson Valley to back-to-back Class 6A state crowns in 2017 and 2018. This week’s trip to the semifinals is his sixth in a row as a head coach. He led Scottsboro to the quarterfinals in 2016.
Etheredge’s teams have been regular visitors to the semifinals and finals over the years. He has amassed a 171-56 record overall in 17 seasons with four state championships at Leeds (2008, 2010, 2014, 2015) and captured a Class 6A state title at Oxford in 2019. He has had head coaching stints at T.R. Miller and Pell City as well and has guided each team he has coached over the last 17 years to the state playoffs.
Auburn opened the season beating Hoover 17-14 in the AHSAA Kickoff Classic at Cramton Bowl. The Bucs host three-time defending state champion Thompson in the other Class 7A semifinal Friday night. Hoover, coached by Wade Waldrop, is playing in its 15th consecutive semifinal game since 2008. The Bucs have reached the state finals in Class 6A or 7A a total of 16 times since 2000 – winning 11 state championships during that span.
Thompson (9-3), coached by Mark Freeman, has reached the Class 7A state finals the last four years – losing to Central in 2018, and winning the state championship in 2019, 2020 and 2021. The Warriors beat Central for the title in 2019 and 2021 and captured an amazing come-from-behind 29-28 win over Auburn in 2020.
Central and Auburn are loaded with outstanding players this season. The Red Devils are led by all-state place-kicker Ethan Paul, wide receiver Karmello English, defensive lineman Tomarrion Parker, and senior quarterback Jaylen Epps. The 6-foot-1, 185-pound senior completed 16-of-31 passes last week in a 45-14 win over Enterprise for 244 yards and two touchdowns. He is 165-of-279 this season for 2,301 yards and 23 TDs. He has also rushed 652 yards and seven touchdowns this season. English has caught 64 passes for 774 yards and 10 scores, and 6-foot-4 junior Cameron Coleman has 28 receptions for 510 yards and six TDs.
Paul has kicked six field goals in seven tries this season and has boomed 11 of his 66 kickoffs into the end zone for a touchback. Parker anchors the defense with 50 tackles, including 10 sacks.
Etheredge’s Tigers have relied on a seasoned offensive line led by Bradyn Joiner and Avery Ferris, both chosen to play in the 2022 Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Football Classic Dec. 10. Etheredge will be serving as head coach of the Alabama squad.
“Our offensive line has played a big role in our success,” Etheredge said. “Bradyn has been with me now four years. He has been a tremendous leader earning all-state as a defensive tackle and now earning All-America honors as an offensive lineman. I have been fortunate in my career to be around great coaches and talented players and to be involved with some really outstanding programs. This year’s team has been such a joy to coach.”
Quarterback Clyde Pittman and running back D.V. Williams have provided a strong 1-2 punch behind the seasoned offensive line. Defensively, Auburn has been one of the top units in the state all year.
The AHSAA TV Network Game of the Week is one of 26 state playoff games set for Friday night. Classes 1A through 6A are in their quarterfinal round. The Class 2A clash between Reeltown (10-1) and B.C. Comer (10-2) at Sylacauga’s Legion Stadium will also be live streamed by the AHSAA TV Network and shown back on WOTM TV on a delayed basis on Sunday.
One playoff game is being played Thursday night with UMS-Wright (12-0) facing Charles Henderson (11-1) in the Class 5A quarterfinals at Troy University’s Veterans Memorial Stadium.
WOTM TV has put together a strong network of cable affiliates across Alabama. Friday’s Game of the Week will be live on the AHSAA TV Network.
The Super 7 State Championships at Auburn University’s Jordan-Hare Stadium will be played Nov. 30-Dec. 2. All seven championship games and the girls’ flag football finals between Oxford and Auburn will be televised live over the AHSAA TV Network – which will include this season the vast Alabama Public Television Network. The APTV stations will provide an opportunity for viewers all across Alabama to see the games in their own homes via live TV. The games will also be live streamed over the NFHS Network as well, and the AHSAA Radio Network will broadcast all the finals as well.
This week, to access the Central-Phenix City vs. Auburn Game of the Week over the NFHS Network, go to the following link: https://www.nfhsnetwork.com/events/ahsaa/gamdcfffba03f
The game is also being produced by Auburn High School and Central High School through its NFHS Network School Broadcast Programs. Go to www.nfhsnetwork.com for more information.
Central-Phenix City link: https://www.nfhsnetwork.com/events/centralphenix-city-high-school-phenix-city-al/gam4315980857
All 26 games are at to be live streamed over the NFHS Network this week.