It wasn’t a thing of beauty, but Carroll County’s 21-6 victory Friday over Patrick County was a great way to open the season and the Jack Turner era in Hillsville.
Despite limiting the Cougars to a paltry 57 yards of offense and three first downs for the entire game, Carroll (1-0) led just 7-6 with 10:54 to play after a fumble deep in its own territory allowed Patrick (0-1) to get on the board. The Cavaliers, winners of just five games in the past four years, responded with touchdowns on its next two drives to secure the victory.
Turner, who previously served head coaching stints at Pulaski County and Auburn, took little time to celebrate before turning his attention to next week’s opponent, Grayson County. Still, he couldn’t help but get a little emotional at the end of the game.
“We’ve just got to protect the football, man. Protect the football and we might be able to win a game this year,” said Turner, alluding to Carroll’s two lost fumbles before talking about the meaning of Friday’s victory. “But it was a great victory for our program. I mean, good win. I told the kids it was the best win I have had as a head coach. To come here with these kids, I am proud of them, very proud of them.”
Cassell McMillian was a workhorse for the Cavaliers in the first half, carrying the ball 17 times for 105 yards in the first two quarters. In fact, Carroll was so dependent on the senior he ran the ball on the Cavaliers’ first seven offensive plays of the night. With the game locked in a scoreless tie after the first quarter, McMillian toted the rock eight times on a 12-play, 49-yard scoring drive he finished with a 1-yard TD plunge. Roger Lopez’s extra point put the Cavs ahead 7-0 with 5:46 left in the opening half.
McMillian came up a bit gimpy late in the half, however, and only carried the ball three more times in the game, finishing with 20 carries for 113 yards.
“It was a thigh bruise and man, I love to win football games, but I am not going to risk a kid getting hurt,” Turner said about McMillian’s limited rushes after intermission.
A block in the back penalty negated a long punt return by Brandt Davidson late in the third quarter and the Cavaliers lost a fumble on the next play. After making Patrick go three and out, Carroll got the ball back, but coughed it up again two plays later, giving the Cougars the ball at the Carroll 15.
And just like that, an offense that had not threatened the entire night took advantage on the next play as quarterback William Sprowl scored from 15 yards on a sweep to the right. The extra point failed, however, allowing Carroll to maintain a 7-6 lead with 10:54 remaining in the final quarter.
The touchdown seemed to serve as a wakeup call for the Cavaliers, who scored on their next two possessions. Facing a 3rd and 13 from the Patrick 41, Carroll kept the drive alive when quarterback Jacob Motley scooted free down the visitor’s sideline for a 27-yard run to the Patrick 14. Dylan Rodrigue was in the end zone three plays later on a 2-yard touchdown run up the middle for a 14-6 lead with 6:39 to play.
Carroll then forced another Patrick three and out deep in their own territory, allowing Carroll to take over at the Cougars’ 30. Motley’s 21-yard pass to Connor Horton set up Motley for a 1-yard scoring run and a 21-6 advantage with 1:31 left.
Despite the big win, Turner said his team still has plenty of room for improvement.
“We dropped two touchdown passes. We’ve just got a lot of work to do. When you have been through what these kids have every win is important and you’ve got to fight for every win,” Turner said. “I thought the kids made plays tonight. “(We’ve) just got to get on the film and get these mistakes corrected and try to patch up what we can for the next game…We played good defense, but that game is over with. Golly man, we have to go (Route) 58 to Grayson County so that is the only thing we care about right now.”
Patrick 0 0 0 6 – 6
Carroll 0 7 0 14 – 21
CC – McMillian 1 run (Lopez kick)
PC – Sprowl 15 run (kick failed)
CC – Rodrigue 2 run (Lopez kick)
CC – Motley 1 run (Lopez kick)
First Downs 3 10
Rushes-Yards 27-53 49-170
Passing 1-5-0 1-3-0
Passing Yards 4 21
Fumbles-Lost 2-1 3-2
Penalties-Yards 11-93 5-40
RUSHING – Martin 6-23, Sprowl 13-19, #22 4-12, #1 1-3, #40 1-0, Archer 1-minus 1, Jessup 1-minus 3.
PASSING – Sprowl 1-5-0 4 yds.
RECEIVING – Jessup 1-4.
RUSHING – McMillian 20-113, Motley 4-36, Rodrigue 6-14, Horton 5-14, Davidson 7-0, Rotenizer 1-minus 1, Underwood 2-minus 2, Team 4-minus 4.
PASSING – Motley 1-3-0 21 yds.
RECEIVING – Horton 1-21.
Allen Worrell can be reached at (276) 779-4062 or on Twitter@AWorrellTCN