Central knows it has to become a complete football team in order to continue its run of state championships.
So far, the Rockets have shown they can still run the ball and play defense with the nation’s best.
On Thursday night, Central showed some marked improvement in the passing game, and it led to an impressive 42-14 rout of state-ranked Columbus at Traz Powell Stadium.
“In order for us to be a successful team, we have to be balanced,” Central coach Roland Smith said. “Our quarterback did a great job distributing the ball to our playmakers.”
Junior quarterback Jerrod Thomas threw four touchdown passes and completed 12 of 15 passes for 211 yards to lead the Rockets (4-1), ranked No.9 nationally by USA Today, who took a 35-0 lead by halftime to prompt the mercy-rule running clock in the second half.
Columbus (3-1), ranked No.6 in the state in Class 8A entering the week, was limited to only 50 yards passing in the first half and only 85 overall.
“We did an excellent job against a great football team,” Smith said. “To come out here and dismantle them the way we did says a lot about the growth of our football team.”
Central set the tone early with the running game, as Cedric Miller broke loose for a 57-yard touchdown run on the game’s first play.
But Thomas took over from that point with his most accurate and productive performance to date.
Thomas, Central’s starting quarterback since the start of the season, threw for 255 yards against nationally ranked Booker T. Washington two weeks ago.
Against Columbus, Thomas was very accurate and spread the ball well, with a different receiver catching all four of his touchdown passes.
“We’re starting to believe in each other on offense,” Thomas said. “I have to credit our offensive line. Everybody tries to key on Da’Vante [Phillips], and I tried to get him the ball. But I’m trying to get all of our guys the ball and make them look good.”
As Central’s star senior receiver, Phillips gets most of the attention from defenses.
That didn’t matter Thursday.
Phillips caught a 23-yard score late in the first half and finished with 60 yards on four catches. Senior Lenwood Joyner also caught a 15-yard touchdown pass.
Senior Anthony Jones caught three passes for 59 yards, including a 10-yard score in the first quarter.
And senior Taurin Wilson caught a 45-yard touchdown over the middle in the third quarter to give Central its largest lead at 42-0.
Senior Olin Cushion led the defense with a 27-yard interception return for a touchdown and a sack.
Columbus backup quarterback Alejandro Ros entered the game late in the second quarter and directed two fourth-quarter touchdown drives for the Explorers’ only points.
Ros threw a 15-yard touchdown pass to Austin Maloney and a 37-yarder to Jerron Rollins on the game’s final play.