Auburn High will have to go through a familiar foe on Friday if the Tigers want to keep alive their hopes of securing for the program's first state football championship.
The Tigers advanced to the semifinals by beating Daphne last Friday night in a 13-7 defensive battle.
The Tigers and the Trojans battled it out the first quarter but neither team was able to gain enough ground to make it onto the scoreboard. That would change in the second quarter as Auburn finally broke the stalemate, with Amaury Hutchinson capping off a steady drive with a four-yard touchdown carry with only 2:23 left in the half. The Tigers would take that 7-0 lead into the half.
The third-quarter looked eerily like the first quarter as neither team was able to get onto the board. The final quarter of the game saw quarterback Matthew Caldwell toss a 29-yard touchdown that was called back due to a penalty. But that didn’t shake Caldwell — two plays later he found Zae Ray for 27 yards, getting the ball down to the one-yard line before Caldwell would run the ball in for the Tigers’ second touchdown of the night. The extra point was no good, but Auburn still had the 13-0 lead. That lead would be in jeopardy as Daphne responded with a solid drive of their own that resulted in a three-yard touchdown carry by Trent Battle. The Trojans had one last chance to score, before Noah Warren intercepted the ball to allow Auburn to kneel their way to the semifinals.
"I thought our team played well all game," said AHS head coach Adam Winegarden. “They had a good game plan, but our defense played outstanding and gave our offense enough chances to get going.”
While Auburn certainly appreciates the win, it only gets harder from here. This Friday, the Tigers will face off against the Central-Phenix City High Red Devils. The two squads previously faced off in week seven, with Auburn pulling out a narrow one-point victory.
The game will mark Auburn’s second straight season of making the semifinals. Central comes into the game 8-4 finishing second in Region 2. The Red Devils have wins over Smiths Station, Jeff Davis, Enterprise, Opelika, Prattville, Dothan, Fairhope, and Theodore, with losses to Hoover, Eufaula, and an overtime loss to Oxford.
“The first game might as well not have existed,” said Winegarden. “There is playoff Auburn and a playoff Central. They have grown on offense and on defense.”
Auburn comes into the game 11-1 having won the Region 2 championship, with wins over park Crossing, Opelika, Prattville, Dothan High, Jeff Davis, Bob Jones, Central-Phenix City, Riverdale, Smiths Station, Baker, and Daphne, with a loss to Enterprise.
The two teams previously faced off at Central, but Auburn will stay at Duck Samford for this game, knowing that even though they will be home the game won’t be easier.
“Controlling the line of scrimmage will be big on both sides and then creating good field position will be key," said Winegarden. "They have a lot of good players who can score on every play, so we will need to be at the top of our game.”
Playoffs bring out the best in every team and this Auburn team is trying to prove that they are the best team in the state. That fight would continue with another win at home Friday night.
Auburn will host Central at Duck Samford Stadium Friday night, with kickoff set for 7 p.m.