BROOKSVILLE — Despite the final score, a 40-7 loss to Zephyrhills, there was a marked improvement seen from Central in Friday's preseason classic.
Mike Einspahr, entering his third season as Central coach, has been preaching about a culture change since he arrived, and for the first time in his tenure there were highlight plays from the Bears.
The Bulldogs' speed was too much early, with a 37-yard reception by Devin Brockington (two catches, 40 yards, one touchdown) setting up a 1-yard touchdown run from Willie Williams to start the scoring.
Williams showed the game-breaking ability that they were looking to replace with the graduated Jamal Roberts. The tailback rushed only eight times, but picked up 114 yards and a touchdown. That total includes one carry where Williams lost 34 yards looking to reverse field.
"Let's be honest about last season; our offense really centered on one guy (Roberts)," Zephyrhills coach Reggie Roberts said. "That's not the case this season. We have a lot of go-to guys."
The Bears put the ball on the ground eight times total, losing three fumbles.
"We are young up front still," Einspahr said, "but we have a lot of the same kids coming back (from last season) and they have been working all summer for this opportunity."
Playing his first season of prep football, defensive back/wide receiver Jamarcus Hayes was Central's player of the game. He picked off quarterback Michael Smith twice and also snagged a 39-yard reception on the only ball thrown to him. Central's Quadavis Battle returned two kicks for 93 yards, caught a 14-yard pass and rushed for 9 yards.