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It was a grind between the numbers for almost three quarters in Friday night’s clash between the Carroll County Panthers and the Henry County Wildcats. However, it was ultimately big plays and unlucky breaks that led to a 14-7 home-opening loss for the Panthers.
After addressing the team, head coach Mike Weedman took a few minutes to himself, hugging his wife and children and collecting his thoughts. When asked why this loss hurt so much, he said it is because this group of players have worked so hard as a team.
“They’re not about individuals,” he said. “They deserve to win. This team deserves to win. I’ve had a lot of good teams, and I’ve never been so blessed to have a group of guys that want to win for each other.
The game was gridlocked at 0-0 until the final plays of the third quarter. On second and 15, quarterback Brennen Penniston was hit as he threw in the end zone. The play could have been called a fumble, but was ruled an incomplete pass. Two plays later with 21 seconds left on fourth and three, Henry County ran a direct snap to a running back straight ahead into the pile. They appeared to be short, but the referees granted him a first down spot.
On the next play, Wildcat running back Mason Fish broke loose down the right sidelines for a 75-yard touchdown run as time expired. After a fumbled snap, Henry County did not convert, making the score, 6-0.
Weedman said he would never blame a game on the officials. “I’m not saying it’s bad calls, it’s bad luck,” he said of the close calls.
Neither Carroll nor Henry could move the ball on their first possessions of the fourth quarter, and the Panthers got the ball back on their own 22 yard line after a Wildcat punt. Unfortunately, senior quarterback John Michael Adams was picked off across the middle on the first play by Austin Hartsell and returned for a touchdown with 7:30 remaining. The Wildcats converted on the two-point conversion, giving them a 14-0 lead.
“Shelby County did it last time with the same amount of time,” Weedman could be heard telling his team on the sidelines, referring to the Rocket’s come-from-behind victory over Henry County the previous Friday.
The Panthers offense must have heard him.
On second and eight, Adams scrambled away from a near sack and hit wide receiver Jacob Wise with a strike. The first-year senior took off down the field and scored a 76-yard touchdown. Senior Taylor Byrd hit the point-after to pull the Panthers within a touchdown.
Wise had a big night for Carroll County, catching three balls for 119 yards and pulling in a touchdown-saving interception in the end zone late in the second half.
“Love the kid,” Weedman said of Wise. “He’s been a great addition to this team. He’s got a football mentality. He’s a champion. Jacob Wise is a champion, and anyone who meets him will know that within five minutes.”
On the ensuing kickoff, it looked like trouble for the Panthers as Ethan Tuggle returned Carroll’s kick off for a touchdown, but it was called back after a holding penalty.
The Wildcats took possession on their own 15 yard line with 5:55 remaining, and the Panther defense held on the second set of downs, forcing a punt with 2:09 to go.
The home team had great field position, starting at their own 44 yard line. Unfortunately, the offense was unable to move the ball, and they turned it over on downs.
The Wildcats kneeled down, letting the remaining 49 seconds tick off the clock as the crimson and white fans cheered.
“You focus, you sacrifice and you play as a team, you should win,” Weedman said. “Sometimes you do those things and you don’t win.”
Sophomore Kyle Prosser carried the load at running back in the first half, carrying the ball six times for 25 hard-fought yards. However, after playing both sides of the ball, he was worn out by halftime. So, the Panther coaching staff opted to go with senior Blake Newby at running back in the second half and keep Prosser mainly on defense. He finished the game with seven tackles – four solo, one assisted and two tackles for loss – and a pass deflection.
“Kyle Prosser manned up,” Weedman said. “He was exhausted, and at this point, we had nobody who could do what he was doing on defense.”
Newby rushed 11 times for 28 yards, while Adams rushed 10 times for a team-high 30 yards.
Weedman gave a lot of credit after the game to the Panther defense, which shutout the Wildcats for almost three quarters. “Outstanding. They just bailed the offense out time and time again,” he said.
Senior Matt Bartley led the team with 12 tackles, including four solo and one tackle for loss, and a pass deflection. Because of his efforts, he was named this week’s Player of the Week by the Carroll coaches.
“He was very sick last week,” Weedman said Tuesday. “The way that he persevered through his sickness throughout the entire week and to be able to command the defense was impressive and a great reflection of his character.”
Also leading the defense were sophomore Isaiah Hogan with eight tackles and two pass deflections, junior Caleb Guenthner with eight tackles and a pass deflection, senior Ryan Davidson with six tackles and Logan McIntyre with two tackles, one pass deflection and a forced fumble and recovery.
With a four-game road trip – starting next week at Moore High School – up next for the Panthers, Weedman said his team will continue growing together and playing for each other. “If we keep doing what we’re doing, this team is going to win a lot of football games.”
Friday Night Preview
7:30 p.m., Sept. 4
at Moore Traditional High School
6415 Outer Loop Road,
Louisville KY, 40228
Coach’s note – Moore Traditional is very athletic and uses a spread offense and shotgun formation, head coach Mike Weedman said. “The quarterback is probably the best athlete we’ve seen yet, very fast.”
Key for Carroll County – Contain the quarterback and bounce back from the Henry County loss. “And I think we will,” Weedman said.