The win puts the Tigers (8-4) into the quarterfinals of the Class 4A state playoffs for the first time since 2002. They will face Oneonta at home Friday for a semifinals berth.
“I’m extremely proud,” Cleburne County head coach Michael Shortt said. “A football team that was averaging almost 40 points, we held them to seven. They had the big play early in the game. We had to settle down. You don’t see the wing-T very often.”
That “big play” came through the efforts of Central-Florence sophomore running back Clay Chaplin.
He put the Wildcats on the board first with a 51-yard touchdown run.
Trey Bolton answered with two touchdown runs of his own to give the Tigers a 14-7 lead. The first came late in the first quarter on a run of 6 yards and the second came late in the second quarter on a run of 2 yards. Both runs came on fourth-down conversions.
“It was more of a team effort,” Bolton said. “My line blocked great tonight. Me and other backs, Brandon Horn and Christian Henson, made great runs tonight.
“The team played well. The defense did a heck of a job. We just came out an performed.”
Bolton finished with 205 rushing yards.
“He’ll be the first guy to tell you the offensive line did a good job,” Shortt said. “They were crowding the line of scrimmage with more people than we could block, and we still got the job done.”
Mario Smith scored the final touchdown on a run of a yard.
Brandon Horn was the only Tiger to catch a pass from Christian Henson but he was not the only Tiger to catch a pass. Henson intercepted a Central-Florence throw late in the fourth quarter on the 2-yard line to end their efforts at a comeback.
“I just got a lucky break,” Henson said. “The guy was on my side — I couldn’t have done it without him. It hit his chest, it hit my foot, it hit my hand and I caught it.”
Added Shortt: “We’re starting to make those plays that we weren’t making last year and the year before.”
Central Florence’s head coach Heath Wood spoke about how proud he was of the way the Wildcats played this season.
“I couldn’t be more pleased with the effort the kids have played with all season,” Wood said. “They worked hard to get to where they’re at.
“They played hard all season. I couldn’t be more proud of a group of young men than I am of those kids.”