Even though the Cavaliers won and Pulaski County (1-9) lost, Carroll County (3-7, 2-2 Southwest District) still fell about seven-tenths of a point shy of earning the sixth and final spot in the Region IV, Division IV playoffs. Carroll County head coach Tom Hale said it was a great way to end the season, especially after such a disappointing loss to Marion the week before that pretty much sealed the Cavaliers' playoff fate.
“We finished the season out strong and the seniors went out with a win. It is a good win for us to build on and keep the kids motivated through the winter and the spring and into next season,” Hale said. “We could have done better I think. All year we have come close in most of our games and our destiny was in our own hands in terms of making the playoffs. We knew when we lost to Marion that would make it a tough road to get in.”
Obviously, Hale had hoped the Cavaliers could sneak into the playoffs. Still, he said he couldn't complain about Pulaski getting in with one win, especially considering the schedule the Cougars played. Pulaski's 10 opponents combined for 75 wins and three of those teams finished the regular season unbeaten – Richlands, Magna Vista and Northside. Meanwhile, Carroll's 10 opponents won 50 games, and two of the Cavaliers' wins were against 0-10 teams (Patrick County and Tazewell).
“Three of the 10 teams Pulaski played went undefeated and then they played a tough schedule and they are in that River Ridge District with a lot of big schools. That was the difference,” Hale said. “It was a heck of a schedule so I am not going to complain about the system. I wish it was us, but it didn't work out.”
On Friday, Patrick struck first with a touchdown on its first possession. Carroll County proceeded to explode for 404 yards of offense, scoring a touchdown each and every possession. Logan Hodges led the Cavalier offense with 130 yards rushing. He scored Carroll's first two touchdowns to help the Cavs rally for a 14-6 lead.
Brooks Hash nearly broke the century mark himself, running for 97 yards and a pair of touchdowns on just six carries. His second-quarter touchdown run put Carroll in front 20-6 before the Cavalier defense started to make big plays.
For the game, Carroll County intercepted four Patrick County passes with Chris Smoot, Patrick Davis, Josh Underwood and Kirk Jones all picking off a pass each. The biggest came with seconds left in the first half as Patrick Davis intercepted a Cougars' offering in the end zone.
“They had First and Goal from the one with about 55 seconds left in the half. They lined up in a spread formation and passed the ball and Patrick Davis intercepted it. That was a major turning point,” Hale said. “Instead of it being 20-12 or 20-14, we hold them and end the half. Then we get the opening kick in the third quarter and go right down and score. From that point on, we never looked back.”
Davis had a big day offensively as well, rushing for three touchdowns and 64 yards on just four carries. Connor Lundy was efficient at quarterback, completing 4-of-5 passes for 49 yards, including completions of 21 yards to Smoot and 19 yards to Travis Hunter.
“We spread it around offensively. Lundy had a good night passing the ball. He probably could have been better stats, but when you get up on a team like that you just start running the ball,” Hale said. “We had our young kids in there and I thought they did a whale of job there at the end. They just controlled the game and did a real good job for us.”
Hale said Patrick County did a good job of moving the ball against the Cavalier defense in the first half. The Cougars had a couple of drives that ate up a lot of clock, he said, but Carroll did a good job of bending but not breaking.
“We had those four interceptions and it just seemed like defensively we played real well,” Hale said. “Offensively we played real well. Every time we got the ball, we scored. For the second week in a row we didn't punt.”