Charles Henderson is led by its defense. The Trojans haven't given up more than 22 points to an opponent this season and are coming off a 13-0 shutout win over Central-Clay County's high-powered offense last week.
Something's got to give today when the two teams meet in the Class 4A state quarterfinals at Troy University's Veterans Memorial Stadium at 7 p.m. The winner advances to next week's state semifinals.
"We have a great challenge in front of us," Dora head coach Johnny Wright said. "It's going to be a pretty evenly-matched game. We're excited to get the opportunity to play at Thanksgiving. Any time you are playing at Thanksgiving, you've got a chance to win it."
Dora is coming off an overtime thriller in its second-round playoff game. The Bulldogs got a huge performance from May (214 yards of offense and three touchdowns), but still needed a defensive hold on a two-point conversion on the last play of the game to earn a 41-40 win over Tallassee.
"I thought last week's game would be low scoring," Wright said. "You can never predict what will happen. Against Tallassee we didn't do a good job adjusting to the Notre Dame Box. That's a tough offense to defend. All that shifting they were doing was getting to us."
Dora trailed through the first three quarters, but battled back in the fourth, building an eight-point lead before Tallassee tied the game in the last minute of regulation to force overtime.
Charles Henderson (9-3) has opened the playoffs with back-to-back wins over ranked teams. The Trojans knocked off No. 4 Thomasville (39-22) in the opening round and followed with their stunning shutout of No. 5 Central-Clay County, a team that averaged 40.9 points through its first 11 games.
Against Central-Clay, the game was a scoreless tie going into the fourth quarter before the Trojans scored a pair of touchdowns in a one-minute span early in the quarter and turned to its defense from there.
"They are really hot team. They've lost three games, but all three were to good teams. They seem to have gotten better every week," Wright said. "On offense, they spread it out. They've got a couple of really good receivers and a small running back who is shifty. Defensively, they are very good. Their defense is probably their strong point. They shut out Clay last week, that's saying a lot."
Charles Henderson is under first-year head coach Mike Dean, who is at his fourth school in five years. Dean, who has never had a losing record, has also coached at Daleville, McGill-Toolen and Valley.
He took over a Charles Henderson program that has made the playoffs 11 times since 2000.
Dora has enjoyed immediate success in Wright's return to the school, winning 11 games for the first time since the 2006 — the final year of Wright's first tenure.
The Bulldogs have done the bulk of their offensive damage on the ground this season with three 1,000-yard rushers. Thomas leads the pack with more than 1,800 yards and 31 touchdowns. May and Kirk have also crossed the century mark. May has also passed for more than 1,000 yards on the season.
Charles Henderson is led by sophomore quarterback Austin Ingram, who has completed 136-of-215 passes for a school-record 1,963 yards and 18 touchdowns. He's also thrown eight interceptions.
Senior running back Courtney Downing, who set a school record in rushing yards last season, has rushed for 1,100 yard and 15 touchdowns this season.
Notes: A win over Dora would put the Trojans into the state semifinals for the first time since winning the Class 3A title in 1980. ... Charles Henderson is in its first year in Class 4A. The Trojans were a 5A program from 1984 to 2011. ... Johnny Wright is 0-4 in third-round playoff games, going 0-2 at Dora. ... Friday’s winner takes on the winner of the UMS-Wright vs. Beauregard game in the state semifinals next week.