There was a sound for sore ears reverberating from Central Coosa’s sideline as it trounced Talladega County in its final game of the fall, a sound long missed in Keith Bullard Stadium after a struggling season. The sound of cheering and utter joy.
Unlike the start, the Cougars end to the season was anything but a struggle. The entire game felt like a party for Central of Coosa County after it opened the game up with a few game-changing plays from the Cougar’s senior star on both sides of the ball, Trae Butler.
Central of Coosa County steamed past Talledega County Central in a score of 60-20 for its second win of the season, as well as the program’s first back-to-back win since Obama was still in office.
Friday’s victory marks the first time the Cougars have won two matches in a single season for the first time in over five years.
“I’m really happy. I’m happy that the boys really played tonight,” Central Coosa coach Brett Thomas said.
What was frequently a scene of disappointment and frustration throughout the season quickly turned into a jubilee for the entirety of the second quarter, when the Cougars took control of the game with a few massive plays and back-to-back successful onside kick attempts.
The senior Butler, who said he wanted to get 28 points on the sideline after his first score in his last time in a Cougar uniform, was well on his way before halftime even rolled around. The 5-foot-10 burner scored 16 points on two touchdown snags and two 2-point conversions to create a safe lead for his team before the match’s midway point.
While he didn't hit his four-touchdown mark and had mercy on Talladega County in the second half, his final game as a Cougar is one that won't be so easily forgotten.
It was a story of false starts, big-yardage plays and successful onside kicks for the Cougars.
Errant penalties kept this game from being 58-14 at the half, but the Cougars had plenty more positives than negatives to focus on for the first time in a long time.
Butler snagged a ball out of the air on third down and immediately stuck his hand in the nearby defender’s face, pushing him into the ground with a Derrick Henry stiff arm before zipping up the field for his first touchdown of the night.
“I seen nothing but green straight ahead of me,” Butler said after shoving off a would-be tackler. “All day, every day.”
“He’s always been our fastest player,” Thomas said. “He’s just one big fast twitch muscle. I was really proud of Butler. Proud of all the running backs: Cassidy Howard, Leryan Coleman and even Jalen Corley, they all did really well. But Butler…”
Thomas hesitated before continuing.
“He’s just…he’s just a different specimen.”
Running back Cassidy Howard broke away for a 30-yard rushing touchdown after breaking a tackle in the open field to extend the Cougar lead
“I wouldn’t have been able to do it without the blocking man, that’s all them,” Howard said.
The 160-lb junior was being a little more than humble in his post-game presser. He made himself look a lot bigger than 160 when he plowed through a defender in the middle of the hashes.
As for the Cougar’s quarterback, Majavius Culpepper kept it short and sweet.
“Shoot, we did it,” Culpepper said. “It just feels good. Turnt all day. I knew we was gonna win.”
The 6-foot-2 wide receiver found himself back in the saddle at quarterback after an injury to starting quarterback Tyreek Epps in the Cougar’s last match.
“MJ actually did great, I was proud of him,” Thomas said. “Came back and threw some nice passes, he actually read the defense and read it correctly. I’m just proud of everybody.”
The Cougars’ season has been anything but routine.
Restrictions of player travel prior to the start of the school year kept the Cougars off the field until just a few weeks before their first match.
Most, if not all opponents they’ve faced this season had the luxury of summer workouts in June and July and then a fall camp to prepare for the season.
Luxury may not be the correct word, privilege or opportunity may be better. Both of which the Cougars were not awarded before they had to strap up in helmets and pads for the first match of the season.
Such a storm set Thomas’ squad up for a seven-game losing streak, dropping each match by an average of 40+ points.
Every storm shall pass, even if the rain has to come down harder before it does.
The overhead clouds dropped a monsoon on the Cougars last week as they prepared to snatch their first win in over two seasons.
Epps, starting quarterback for the Cougars most of the season, went down with a severe knee injury in Coosa’s win over Calhoun last week. So severe, that he had to be hospitalized for treatment before heading back home to Coosa County.
Epps wasn’t the only Cougar missing from the starting lineup on Friday. Leading tackler Conner Mitchell also had to miss the final game after being listed as questionable in the week leading up. Butler and Howard were named to the questionable list but made it a mission to suit up for the Cougar’s last game no matter the circumstances.
Despite the injuries and setbacks from the start of the year, the Cougars ended their season on not just one, but two positive notes.
As for next year, Thomas is holding out hope that things will go much differently than the start of the 2021 campaign. A traditional summer and fall camp are what he wishes for most, and this year’s hot finish may provide a spark for the players to want to come back and do even better in the next go-around.
“I pray we do (have camp),” Thomas said. “I pray we do and that’s why I’m happy we won at least two games because maybe they’ll be motivated enough to come out in the summer when they see what they can do if they just put their minds to it.”
He might already have that prayer answered.
When asked what he is most excited for in the Cougar’s next season, Culpepper simply said, “Summer camp.”
“I can’t say enough, I’m just so proud,” Thomas said.