During the preseason, Eddie Sloss said he felt Carroll County’s football team finally had built some quality depth. After a rough week of injuries, the words of the Cavalier head coach rang true Friday as Carroll defeated Patrick County 25-7 in a dominating season opener in Stuart.
Missing half of its starting defensive line in nose guard Dylon Leonard and end Jackson Shumate, Carroll County didn’t miss a beat. The Cavaliers limited Patrick County to 194 yards of offense. And despite a very limited Logan Trudell at tailback, Conner Horton and Cassell McMillian picked up the load, combining to rush for 174 yards and two touchdowns on 26 carries.
“Guys played hard. We had a tough week. We had a couple injuries (Thursday). Dylon Leonard, hopefully he will go to the doctor and get an MRI on Monday and we are just hoping and praying he is not a long-term deal,” Sloss said. “Then Jackson Shumate, starting left end for us, pulled his groin pretty bad. But I felt like we had enough depth to where we would be okay versus Patrick County, and I am not taking anything away from them, but I really feel like the guys we have backing these fellows up can play for us so this would be a good opportunity for them to rise to the occasion.”
And rise Carroll County (1-0) certainly did. After stopping the Cougars with a defensive three-and-out on the game’s first possession, the Cavaliers needed just seven plays to get in the end zone. McMillian ripped off runs of 10 and 24 yards to ignite the drive, which sophomore Jacob Motley capped with a 2-yard touchdown on a quarterback sneak. The extra point failed, but the Cavs had a 6-0 lead midway through the first quarter. More importantly, they had confidence.
“It was a big monkey off our back, a big relief simply because we didn’t know how they were going to respond and if they could rise to the challenge. They certainly did,” Sloss said. “We know the capability and what they can do, it is just a matter of do they have confidence in themselves and who they are replacing? We are replacing two pretty good players right there – Dylon not necessarily a great ball runner but he is a 100 percent guy every play and a guy you want to run behind. It was a big relief to see them score and have success throughout the game.”
Aided by a personal foul penalty on the Cavs, Patrick drove the length of the field on the ensuing drive. On 4th and 4, Carroll’s defense set the tone for the rest of the game as sophomore Weston Burcham picked off a Logan Hutchens pass at the 1 and returned it to midfield. Patrick wouldn’t sniff the end zone again until 11 seconds remained in the contest.
“It was a big boost. I was kind of thinking why do you intercept that on fourth down? He could have been tackled right there and luckily he made a play. It wasn’t luck, he is just a good athlete,” Sloss said of Burcham, who also hauled in a 40-yard touchdown pass from Motley in the second quarter. “We are very blessed to have him and I am glad he took the bait. He just wanted to be a punter and a kicker and he didn’t want to play offense and defense. (I did anything I could) to get him out here and once we get him out here, what a threat.”
After both teams traded possessions, Carroll took over at its own 48. The Cavs needed just three plays to get back in the end zone as Horton’s 39-yard run set up a 10-yard McMillian touchdown for a 12-0 lead with 6:50 left in the opening half. Horton led Carroll with 94 yards on 15 carries, while McMillian scored twice and rushed for 80 yards on 11 carries. The combo ran hard and came up big with Trudell still tender from an injury suffered the week before.
“Connor Horton did a phenomenal job running the football and Dylan (Rodrigue) did a good job running that fullback and Cassell is Cassell. He is just a steady guy,” Sloss said. “He does everything you ask him to do, but he is playing hard on defense and I am glad. We got a lot of guys a chance to play tonight and that was good game experience.”
Burcham’s 40-yard touchdown catch extended Carroll’s lead to 18-0 late in the second quarter. McMillian added an 11-yard touchdown run with 1:37 left in the third. Carroll’s defense took it from there, shutting the Cougars out until the final 11 seconds.
“Coach (Doug) Reavis does a good job. He keeps things so simple for them and it’s just how can you not be successful when you keep it simple and he’s got such a good game plan? The kids, they understand what they are doing and they are really good at it. It doesn’t change week to week. The assignments are the same and they are fundamentally sound,” Sloss said. “We still have a long ways to go. We have a great Grayson County team coming to our place next week. I am going to enjoy this first. The kids understand that hopefully we are not done and have some more games to play.”
Carroll Co. 6 12 7 0 – 25
Patrick Co. 0 0 0 7 – 7
CC – Motley 2 run (kick failed)
CC – McMillian 10 run (run failed)
CC – Burcham 40 pass from Motley (kick blocked)
CC – McMillian 11 run (Burcham kick)
PC – Howard 2 run (Harkey kick)
First Downs 14 11
Rushes-Yards 44-251 40-158
Passing 2-6-0 3-9-1
Passing Yards 47 36
Fumbles-Lost 1-1 1-1
Penalties-Yards 3-30 3-16
Possession 20:18 27:42
RUSHING – Horton 15-94, McMillian 11-80, Trudell 5-27, Motley 7-25, Dalton 1-15, Rodrigue 2-11, Underwood 1-1, Rotenizer 1-minus 1, Team 1-minus 1.
PASSING – Motley 2-6-0 47 yds.
RECEIVING – Burcham 2-47.
RUSHING – Edwards 9-59, Hill 16-44, Robertson 4-33, Hutchens 7-12, Howard 2-4, Team 1-7, McNulty 1-minus 1.
PASSING – Hutchens 3-9-1 36 yds.
RECEIVING – Cockram 1-26, McNulty 2-10.
Allen Worrell can be reached at (276) 779-4062 or on Twitter@AWorrellTCN