Holding its two top playmakers in check, Carroll County went toe-to-toe with powerful rival Galax for 15 minutes Friday night.
Top receiver Landon Dickson was limited to one catch for 13 yards and running back Blake Brown was held to 85 yards before the Maroon Tide began relying on the legs of quarterback Cole Pickett. Pickett broke a scoreless deadlock with a 14-yard touchdown three minutes into the second quarter and finished with 127 yards rushing as Galax eventually pulled away for a 30-7 victory in Hillsville.
“The way they were playing it, we had things in for Cole where he could make some plays with his legs and he did,” Galax head coach Mark Dixon said. “Really they were taking Blake away. Everywhere Blake went, everyone was following, and they did a good job of taking Landon away. Those have been our two big weapons, either hit Landon or Blake gets going, so they did a really good job of scheming those two and then it became the other option was Cole’s legs, and his legs were a huge difference.”
Both teams traded possessions to start the game before Carroll County (1-2) embarked on an 11-play drive that moved the Cavs to the Galax 32. Carroll turned the ball over on downs, but responded four plays later when Tyler Busick Hawks intercepted a Pickett pass that deflected off Dickson at the Carroll 20 near the end of the first quarter.
The Cavs couldn’t capitalize, however, and Galax (2-1) finally got on the board with 9:09 left in the second on Pickett’s 14-yard touchdown run. After a three-and-out by Carroll, another long Pickett run – this run for 38 yards – set up Brown for a 1-yard score. Pickett was intercepted again late in the half by Dustin Dalton, but the Cavs’ offense was stymied and Galax tacked on a 27-yard Caxton Vaught field goal just before the half to build a 17-0 advantage.
“When you play a great football team you can’t have any mistakes and I thought we battled and battled. We had opportunities. Great speed, great program, great coach. I mean, my gosh man, when you play a team like that you’ve got to be perfect and we had opportunities there,” Carroll County head coach Jack Turner said. “Coach Dixon, I am telling you, the credit he doesn’t get is his defensive genius. He is the smartest defensive coach I know and he deserves a lot of credit for how he defended us tonight, but I thought our kids battled and I am proud of them about that.”
The Cavaliers continued to battle in the third quarter. After turning the Maroon Tide over on downs at the Carroll 21 to start the second half, the Cavs got the ball back before having to punt. Galax muffed it, however, giving Carroll the ball back at the Maroon Tide 40. Aided by a 16-yard Brandt Davidson run, Carroll moved down to the Galax 5 late in the third quarter with a chance to cut the deficit to 10. Cade Ashworth ripped the ball free in a pile at the 5 and returned the ball to midfield, though, killing the Cavalier drive and momentum. Vaught was in the end zone six plays later to up the Galax lead to 23-0 with 10:55 to play.
“They played well. I thought we were solid,” Dixon said of the Galax defense. “Early in the game they were getting three- and four-yard carries and I thought the kids did a good job of becoming more physical and adjusting and stopping that. I knew it was going to be a kind of a game where we couldn’t let them go three at a time, three at a time, three at a time. (Turner) was going to run the clock out and he is doing a heck of a job with it. They are a lot more physical, a lot better prepared. He is doing all the things you have got to do, so kudos to them. It is a world of difference.”
Brandon Crowder added a 7-yard touchdown for Galax with 3:59 to play. Carroll drove 80 yards in 11 plays on its final drive. Dylan Rodrigue ran for 49 yards on eight carries in the series, including a 3-yard touchdown run to put the Cavaliers on the board. Roger Lopez added the extra point. After the game, Dixon said he thinks Turner has Carroll headed in the right direction.
“I think he is doing a lot of what Coach Hale did and that is the recipe here. You get real physical, you play smart, you don’t make mistakes and that’s how they won years ago,” Dixon said. “And you can see, it’s a dramatic improvement, I mean dramatic improvement in not only how hard his kids play but discipline and the right way. If I was here I would do exactly (the same thing). He has the blueprint for it and if everybody sticks with him and lets him do his thing, they will be really happy in a year or two.”
Although the Cavaliers continue to show improvement, the road doesn’t get any easier. Carroll will travel to Pulaski County this Friday before returning home Sept. 21 for a home date with Glenvar.
“We are going to battle, but now we just have to move on to the next one. My gosh, you go Grayson, Galax, Pulaski and Glenvar, that is a four-game gauntlet, but I am proud of my kids and we will better for it and the program will be better for it,” Turner said. “We will see where we are, but all the credit to Coach (Dixon). He does a great job coaching that defense and I told him I can’t wait to go to Salem to watch them play and get another state championship. He deserves it.”
Galax 0 17 0 13 – 30
Carroll 0 0 0 7 – 7
G – Pickett 14 run (Vaught kick)
G – Brown 1 run (Vaught kick)
G – Vaught 27-yard field goal
G – Vaught 20 run (kick failed)
G – Crowder 7 run (Vaught kick)
CC – Rodrigue 3 run (Lopez kick)
First Downs 17 9
Rushes-Yards 38-349 50-180
Passing 7-17-2 0-2-0
Passing Yards 60 0
Fumbles-Lost 2-1 1-1
Penalties-Yards 15-115 7-75
RUSHING – Pickett 10-127, Vaught 15-121, Brown 10-85, Crowder 2-14, Cooke 1-2/
PASSING – Cooke 4-10-2 26 yds., Pickett 3-7-0 34 yds.
RECEIVING – Lundy 2 -19, Dickson 1-13, Bryson 2-12, Barnes 1-12, Ashworth 1-4.
RUSHING – McMillian 17-53, Rodrigue 8-49, Davidson 5-33, Horton 17-32, Motley 3-13.
PASSING – Motley 0-2-0 0 yds.
RECEIVING – None.
Allen Worrell can be reached at (276) 779-4062 or on Twitter@AWorrellTCN