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Panthers win third straight heading into playoffs

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By Kristin Beck

A high-powered offense and a smothering defense both came to play Friday night for Carroll County on senior night, as the Panthers defeated the Dayton Greendevils, 42-8. The first-stringers had a shutout going until the Greendevils scored on the back-ups with 5:54 remaining.

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Carroll County (5-5) rushed 36 times for 327 yards, and senior quarterback John Michael Adams was 8-16 through the air for 163 yards for a total of 490 yards of offense. In comparison, Dayton (2-8) rushed 14 times for nine yards and completed 10 passes for 81 yards for 90 total yards. The only area in which Dayton prevailed over Carroll was in penalties. Dayton was perfect, while Carroll committed seven for 75 yards.

After losing three in a row, the Panthers bounced back with a three-game winning streak heading into Friday night’s Class 2A playoff game against Newport High School. Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m. at Newport.

“It was a good team win. It’s good to finish out with three in a row heading into Newport,” head coach Mike Weedman said. “I’m really proud of this team because they could have quit. They could have quit earlier in the season when we had that three-game skid, and they didn’t; they won three in a row, and I think that says a lot about the character of this team.”

After spending every day with your team, Weedman said he can tell when the players have given up. But he said this team is far from giving up.

Carroll County threw the ball more against Dayton than they have all season. But after the game, Weedman could not really put his finger on why.

“Yeah, I don’t know why,” he said. “I don’t know why it worked; I don’t know why we did it. They blitzed a lot of people so I think that’s why the holes were there. But I was proud of John Michael for reading the defense and watching the rush. I thought he did a really good job of that.”

Carroll County’s pass rush put pressure on Dayton’s three quarterbacks all night, especially senior Keifer McIntyre and juniors Caleb Guenthner and Dean Taylor.

“All three of them, that’s their job is to rush the passer and they were able to do that tonight,” Weedman said. “Coach (JP) Dale did an outstanding job of throwing different fronts at them, and I think that gave them problems.”

Carroll County started the scoring spree on their first possession. Blake Newby returned the kickoff to Carroll’s own 45-yard-line, and then the Panthers proceeded to march the ball down the field with their ground game. Adams recovered a fumble in the end zone by McIntyre to put his team on the scoreboard. Senior Taylor Byrd tacked on the extra point. He was 6-6 on the night.

After a Greendevil punt, the Panthers took over in great field position once again, from their own 43-yard-line. Adams threw a three-yard touchdown pass to senior Raven Labrada, 14-0, with 5:53 left in the first quarter.

The Carroll defense forced a three-and-out on Dayton’s next possession, including a sack by McIntyre and Guenthner. Dayton’s defense returned the favor and also forced a three-and-out.

After completing a long first down pass, the Greendevils threw the ball to the middle of the field, and it was picked off by Labrada on the Panther 17-yard-line. That would be the closest the Greendevils came to scoring until their fourth-quarter touchdown.

Labrada finished the game with two catches for 12 yards for a touchdown and the interception. He was named Player of the Game by the coaches.

“Happy for him, I’m so happy for him,” Weedman said. “He’s a great young man who has persevered this season. He deserved to have a game like this.”

Carroll committed back-to-back turnovers on their next two possessions – a turnover on downs and a fumble – but Dayton was not able to convert.

With 6:09 left in the half, Carroll started from their own 35-yard-line and immediately started moving with two straight first downs by senior Jacob Wise. On second down, Adams passed the ball to Newby, who took it to the 13 yard-line. On second and eight, senior Michael Welch scored from 11 yards out, 21-0, which would ultimately be the halftime score.

The Panthers scored their next touchdown during the second possession of the third quarter. Adams and Wise connected for a 27-yard pass and catch with four minutes remaining, 28-0.

Dayton converted on two third-and-twos to move the ball down the field, but the drive ended on fourth down as senior Ryan Davidson and junior Devin Dermon combined for a sack.

On first down from Dayton’s 40-yard-line, Newby burst through would-be-tacklers before being dragged down inside the 10-yard-line. Senior Matt Bartley ran the ball twice and scored from two yards out, 35-0, at the start of the fourth quarter.

Carroll brought in its second stringers on its next possession, with sophomore Isaiah Hogan taking the snaps at quarterback and sophomore Cam Rose and freshman Lucas Gibbs carrying the ball. But it was Welch who burst through from 10 yards out for his second touchdown of the game with 8:55 left.

From then on, the Greendevils faced a running clock. However, it didn’t take long for Dayton to get down the field, as a huge kickoff return set up their offense on Carroll’s 36 yard-line. On second down, Carroll was called for pass interference, moving Dayton 15 yards closer. Sophomore Dylan Adams caught a pass from senior quarterback Austin Brockman, broke a couple tackles and scored a 21-yard touchdown. Adams also caught the two-point conversion, 42-8.

Looking ahead to Newport, Weedman compared the Wildcats to Moore High School, who Carroll played Sept. 6. The Panthers came back from being down 38-20, but could not convert on a first and goal in the waning second of the game, losing 38-33.

“I think they’re a mirror team of Moore,” Weedman said. “Very athletic, big up front, but I do believe we can give them trouble and give them a fight. I believe we can win.”

Newport struggled early on, losing its first four games, but they rebounded late. Like the Panthers, they are on a three-game winning streak – defeating Holy Cross (Covington), Lloyd Memorial and Holmes – and finished the season with the same record, 5-5.

“We kind of kept an eye on Newport,” Weedman said. “Newport is playing really good ball right now, but we also think it’s a good draw. We need to come out, and we need to focus on Newport. I think if we do what we’re supposed to Monday through Thursday then we can give Newport problems on Friday.”

Weedman said his players need to up their intensity for Friday night’s playoff game and come in mentally focused on winning. “That’s all it’s about,” Weedman said. “It’s the will to win; they have to have that will to win.”

 

Carroll County statistics

Passing:

Adams 8-16, 163 yards, TD

Rushing:

Newby, 3 for 69 yards

Adams, 9 for 68 yards, TD

Welch, 6 for 23 yards, 2 TDs

McIntyre, 9 for 85 yards

Gibbs, 2 for 9 yards

Wise, 2 for 4 yards

Bartley, 2 for 6 yards, TD

Rose, 3 for 63 yards

Receiving:

Newby, 3 for 73 yards

Labrada, 2 for 12 yards, TD

Wise, 5 for 84 yards, TD