Shaking off a long season of frustration, Carroll County sent its seniors out with a bang Friday night, wrapping up the year with a 32-12 blowout victory over James River on Senior Night.
While there were eight losses in between, the Cavaliers finished the season the way it started – with a win. And after falling behind 12-0, Carroll County (2-8, 1-5 Three Rivers District) reeled off 32 unanswered points to give the Cavaliers their first-ever Three Rivers District victory.
“It means everything. This senior class hasn’t had a lot of success coming through the ranks and this is pretty special. This group has really matured. They are a good bunch of kids,” Carroll County head coach Eddie Sloss said. “This class was the freshman class my first year here and to see these guys finish on this note, it is amazing. It is a testament to them because they worked their butt off this week trying to make this happen tonight. And we knew James River, they are a tough team, they beat Radford in overtime and we knew we had our hands full coming in to this thing tonight, but they practiced hard and had a good game plan.”
Much as it has all season, all the breaks went against Carroll in the early going. Despite playing a strong first quarter on defense, the Cavs fell behind 6-0 late in the frame on a strip sack fumble that Jesse Carter picked up for a 21-yard touchdown return. Then on the first play of the second quarter, James River blocked a Carroll punt to take over 17 yards away from another score. Five plays later, the Knights were ahead 12-0 despite being outplayed.
The Cavaliers responded with three straight touchdowns to end the half, taking a 20-12 lead and grabbing old momentum by the jugular.
“They could have easily said, ‘You know what, here we go again,’ but they didn’t. I am proud of them,” Sloss said. “They never quit playing all year, just sometimes when you are outmatched and outmanned it appears that way. I am proud of their effort.”
Cassell McMillian and Logan Trudell both ran for over 100 yards for the Cavaliers and Trudell kickstarted Carroll after the Knights’ second touchdown. Trudell’s 34-yard run helped set up Jacob Motley’s 1-yard touchdown run to trim the James River (3-7, 1-5 Three Rivers) lead to 12-7 with 7:28 left in the first half.
“At first (when we fell down 12-0) there is always that feeling of here we go again, but then that Senior Night kicked in and we are still in this, we can win this ballgame,” said Trudell, a senior. “And we all just came together and played like a team and that got us to where we needed to be. When the momentum shifted, it was great. It was a great feeling to have.”
And boy, did the tide turn quickly. Three plays later, Hodges fumbled from the quarterback position and Weston Burcham recovered, giving the Cavs the ball back at the James River 38. McMillian, who ran for 146 yards and three touchdowns, plunged into the end zone from two yards out five plays later. Kyle Robinson’s extra point put Carroll in front 14-12 with 5:48 still left in the half.
The Cavaliers were in the end zone again less than four minutes later when McMillian broke free untouched up the middle for a 39-yard touchdown and a 20-12 advantage.
“You go back to all the games and the crazy penalties and bad breaks we get and we finally get penalties called that benefit us and fumbles, good night, interceptions, things just started falling our way for a change,” Sloss said.
After a scoreless third quarter, Carroll County put the Knights to bed with a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns. McMillian scored for the third time from 27 yards out on the first play of the final period and Trudell got in the end zone on a 1-yard run with 3:31 to play.
After the clock ticked down to zero, emotions began to take over for several of Carroll’s seniors. Trudell, who ran for 110 yards, was one of them. After the game he explained why this win meant so much.
“We all knew that this was the most important game to us because it was our last and we wanted to go out with a bang,” Trudell said. “No matter what the score was, no matter what happened, we wanted to go out knowing we gave it our all and that is what we did tonight.”
Fellow senior Cade Snow has been a tackling machine all season for the Cavaliers, but after the game the bruising linebacker was overcome by tears. It was the culmination of several factors – knowing your career was over but also knowing you were going out a winner and setting the stage for Carroll’s younger players.
“Football means the world to us. This is our lifestyle, so the feeling is unreal. We really don’t know how to feel right now but we knew we had to come out here and play a hard game and I think that is what we all did,” Snow said. “We have went 1-9 the last three or four years and stepping up to an extra win is really going to help motivate the boys and show them what they need to do next year to lead the team.”
James River 6 6 0 0 – 12
Carroll Co. 0 20 0 12 – 32
JR – Carter 21 fumble return (pass failed)
JR – Hays 5 pass from Hodges (pass failed)
CC – Motley 1 run (Robinson kick)
CC – McMillian 2 run (Robinson kick)
CC – McMillian 39 run (kick failed)
CC – McMillian 27 run (kick failed)
CC – Trudell 1 run (kick failed)
First Downs 12 10
Rushes-Yards 32-141 43-349
Passing 10-32-2 1-2-0
Passing Yards 128 8
Fumbles-Lost 1-0 3-3
Penalties-Yards 8-60 7-70
Possession 24:05 23:55
RUSHING – Hodges 16-80, Bryant 4-26, Clonch 6-23, Peay 6-12.
PASSING – Hodges 10-32-2 128 yds.
RECEIVING – Taylor 4-48, Clonch 3-40, Hays 2-34, Austin 1-6.
RUSHING – McMillian 14-146, Trudell 17-110, Dalton 2-71, Burcham 1-13, Leonard 2-5, Motley 4-3, Rotenizer 3-1.
PASSING – Rotenizer 1-2-0 8 yds.
RECEIVING – Morman 1-8.
Allen Worrell can be reached at (276) 779-4062 or on Twitter@AWorrellTCN