The first half was downright ugly for G.W. Carver against Central-Phenix City.
Heading into the break, the Wolverines found themselves down by nine and had more penalties than first downs.
Then came the turnaround.
“Coach gave us a great speech at halftime,” Carver quarterback Draequon Murphy said. “He told us that because we’re Carver, we have to overcome a lot of adversity. And we came out and fought well.”
Determined to avenge their only regular-season loss from last year, the Wolverines exploded in the second half, and were able to shut down the Red Devils’ high-powered offense to earn a 23-11 win at Cramton Bowl Thursday night.
“I keep telling this group that there’s something special about them,” Carver coach Billy Gresham said. “They showed true character tonight. The first half didn’t go so well, but we came back in the second half and guys made plays and continued to fight.
“That’s what football is all about, teaching these guys life lessons. Things are not going to go perfect (in this) world, so you’ve got to make sure you continue to fight.”
Injury forced the Wolverines to play with a mismatched offensive line, resulting in seven false start penalties in the first half.
But the Wolverines cleaned up their act in the third quarter and scored 14 points while holding the Red Devils to 18 total yards.
Murphy, who played his first game at quarterback after nursing a sore shoulder from last week, went 10-for-23 passing for 105 yards and a touchdown with 69 of the yards coming in the second half.
“He played well, he didn’t turn the ball over with was a positive for us,” Gresham said. “He did a good job of running the offense, and it looked like he got more comfortable as the game went on.”
Murphy also had 22 carries for 64 yards and a touchdown, but it was the defense that turned the momentum in Carver’s favor.
Safety Justin Martin made the game-changing play come midway through the third quarter.
After Murphy hit Landy Capetillo for an 18-yard touchdown to put Carver on the board, the Carver defense forced Central to punt from deep in its own territory.
A short punt bounced at the 40-yard line and rolled in Carver’s favor. While everyone was watching, Martin scooped the ball up and ran 25 yards untouched for the score, turning a nine-point deficit to a five-point lead in less than a minute and a half.
“I saw an opening and took a chance,” Martin said, who also had sack and a game-sealing interception. “And it paid off.”
Wolverine defensive backs Andrew Walker and Ryan Robinson also had interceptions. Carver linebacker Shaun Hamilton, an Alabama commitment, had nine solo tackles and three assisted tackles. Capetillo finished the game with four receptions for 65 yards and the touchdown. Ole Miss commitment Charles Standberry had four catches for 29 yards.
Central’s Traevon Samuel — who has offers from Alabama, Auburn, Clemson and Florida State — had 15 carries for 79 yards and four catches for 37 yards.