The Central High School Warriors wanted their second confrontation of the season against powerhouse Whitehaven to be more of a contest, more competitive. The first match-up was a wipeout with the Tigers pitching a shutout (23-0).
The Warriors had reason to keep hope alive, having upset Cordova the previous week in a 42-41 thriller. The Tigers, however, proved to be an insurmountable challenge, blanking Central 35-0 at Whitehaven Stadium and advancing to the quarterfinals of the Tennessee 6A state playoffs.
“We had our opportunities to make plays, we did not make plays and they made plays,” said Central head coach Lynord Crutchfield, who also reflected on the season of the Warriors (5-6), who advanced to the second round of the TSSAA state playoffs for the second consecutive season.
“I think we under achieved for what we have talent wise. We had some demons we had to battle within our own locker room. It kept us out of it mentally, the second part of the season. The kids that normally play, we haven’t played that type of football before.”
Tigers head coach Rodney Saulsberry Jr. pocketed the victory and put it into perspective.
“Anytime you can get a victory in the playoffs, surviving and advancing is really important. I am really proud of these guys for doing that,” he said. “I see some things we really have to work on. We will work to shore those little things up. If we continue to work on those small things, great things are (possible) for these kids.”
The defense of Whitehaven did not allow the Warriors to get into any type of rhythm and the offense of the Tigers controlled the ground game and the clock.
The offensive line of the Tigers controlled the line of scrimmage, paving the way for Chris Witherspoon to rush for 180 yards and two touchdowns in only one half of action. Witherspoon left the game late in the second quarter because of an ankle injury. He could have returned if needed and should be ready for the next game.
Quarterback Vincent Guy does not throw the football often for Whitehaven, but again showed that he is a threat. Guy only completed two passes against the Warriors; both were for touchdowns. The first went to Rayshad Williams for 19 yards and Jordan Hill hauled in the other for a 40-yard score. The completion to Hill came on a third and goal from the 40-yard line.
The defense of Whitehaven knew how explosive the offense of the Warriors could become and was determined to avoid any such fireworks. The Tigers had three interceptions. Williams had one and Joshua Gray and Kenny Simmons each returned interceptions 35 yards to set up short fields for the Tiger’s offense.
On the play of the Tigers’ defense, Saulsberry said, “Those guys fight for each other. They challenge each other. We are expecting even more from them, because they have more in them. We are continuing to challenge them to do even better.”
Saulsberry also praised the offensive line. “They were able to take over the football game and allow us to drive the football down the field.”
The White Station Spartans defeated the previously undefeated Germantown Red Devils 17-14 on Friday night. Since Whitehaven is a higher seed, the Tigers will host the Spartans this Friday (November 17) at 7 p.m.
The Tigers defeated the Spartans 17-14 at White Station on October 20. This clearly is not the same Spartans team. They won the first round of the playoffs with an upset win (29-28) over Arlington.
The winner of the Whitehaven-White Station game likely would have to travel to Middle Tennessee to play a semifinal game.