Quentin Hayes

Quentin Hayes (14) and the Wildcats will look to topple No. 5-ranked Central this week.

The Class 7A No. 8-ranked Enterprise Wildcats (4-0, 1-0) will host the No. 5-ranked Central-Phenix City Red Devils (4-0, 2-0) with a chance to take control of Class 7A, Region 2 on the line.

The Wildcats are coming into this matchup having outscored their opponents 188-54, while Central has outscored its opponents 183-29 and has pitched two shutouts. Both Enterprise and Central have scored 50 or more points twice each this season, while both have also scored more than 40 points in 3-of-4 games.

The Central offense is led by quarterback Caleb Nix – the brother of Auburn’s Bo Nix – with 830 yards and 11 touchdowns passing compared to just one interception. The Red Devils also feature a host of running backs that include senior Jordan Moultrie (358 yards, 2 touchdowns), junior JT Banks (181 yards, one touchdown) and sophomore Corvee James (141 yards). The Central receivers are led by junior Karmello English with 19 catches for 316 yards and seven touchdowns already this season.

“They’re so explosive and so fast that it’s hard to slow them down,” Enterprise coach Rick Darlington said. “If we do, we better be taking advantage of it and scoring points of our own. It’s not like they give up a lot of points, though.”

Darlington said his Wildcats have to take advantage of every opportunity provided to them against Central and defensive coordinator Jed Kennedy said the biggest key is that the Enterprise defense can’t give up big plays.

“I don’t think it’s as much about slowing them down as it’s more about shortening the game,” Kennedy emphasized. “You can’t give up big plays. They’re really good but if you make them take time off the clock that can be big.

“We can’t go out there and go three-and-out (on offense) and then give up a 70-yard pass. That just can’t happen.”

Darlington echoed his defensive coordinator’s views on the game.

“It’s definitely going to be a game of possessions,” he said. “I don’t want to talk in clichés but we have to make them snap it again and again. We can’t give up the big play, make them drive the field. Make them earn it and when we get the ball we can’t turn it over.”

The best defense against an explosive offense can sometimes be a team’s own offense, especially the running game. The Wildcats have rushed for more than 1,400 yards already this season and are averaging 8.5 yards per carry. Sophomore running back Amare Griffin has totaled 467 yards and eight touchdowns so far, while junior Mykel Johnson has rushed for 351 yards and seven touchdowns along with 108 yards and three touchdowns receiving.

Special teams could play a big factor, as well. The Wildcats have struggled on special teams, especially on kickoffs, and gave up a 93-yard touchdown return against Davidson. While Central hasn’t had very many opportunities to return kickoffs, they already have two punt returns of more than 60 yards.

Darlington and Kennedy both pointed to confidence as being another big factor for their team. The Wildcats proved that they can beat top teams last season with the upset of Auburn and want to show that they can also beat Central, something Enterprise hasn’t done since 2015 and has done only twice since 2007.

“If you look at the game from two years ago, in the first five minutes we were down 21-0. We got three-and-outs on offense and they scored quick,” Kennedy said. “That’s a disaster. Look at the Auburn game last year, though, when we pulled that upset.

“At the end of the first quarter, we were in the game. At the end of the first half, we were in the game. At the end of the third quarter, we were in the game. I’m hoping we’ve developed some confidence the past four weeks and (the team’s) focus is on that.”

Darlington said there’s no question the team’s confidence will be a big factor.

“We can’t play scared,” he flatly said. “We have to have that confidence. That’s going to be important.”

Enterprise plays Central at home at 7 p.m. on Friday.

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