As a sports writer covering high schools in the Bi-City area, its my job to tell you what happened, how it happened and what it means. Making guess about what could have happened isnt really part of the job description.
That said, Ill offer an opinion: With a little bit better officiating, Shaw High could have pulled the upset against Carver on Thursday night.
Let me stress that this post is in no way a knock against Carver after its 18-13 win over the resurgent Raiders. The Tigers played their hearts out too and deserve major kudos for hanging on against a very tough football team. Carver didnt play its best game, but it showed why it is such a good team by making plays when it needed to.
My issue is that Shaw did, too. In fact, Shaw might have outplayed Carver in that game.
Its defensive front, which coach Kyle Adkins has said on multiple occasions is a real strength of the team, gave the Tigers fits all game long. Carver struggled to put much of an offensive attack together until it began to make a couple of key plays late in the game.
Quarterback Chandler Whittlesey made plays with his legs and his arm, leading Shaw to a slim 13-12 lead in the second half. When Shaws extra point sailed through the uprights to give it the lead, coaches in the box could be heard cheering as loud as the fans.
It was such a big deal, a great sign of the progress Shaw had made in returning to prominence in the area. And a win would have been a perfect way to announce that return.
Two missed plays, among a series of other very questionable calls for both teams, may have cost the Raiders the opportunity, however.
A first-quarter fumble by Whittlesey was returned for a Carver touchdown. It appeared the quarterback had clearly been down before the ball came out, however. Adkins called the ruling garbage. That score proved to be the difference in the game, but Shaw still had an opportunity for the win late.
When Shaw sent a punt off from its own territory, the ball appeared to bounce off the Carver returners leg. Shaw crowded around the play and pounced on the ball. After a quick discussion, however, officials awarded the ball to the Tigers. The fumble recovery would have set Shaw up inside the Carver 40-yard line with a chance to take a late lead.
Even later, after the Shaw defense stood tall, there appeared to be issues with the clock, letting time run off, crucial seconds that may have given the Raiders enough time for a late prayer.
Again, this is not knock on Carvers game as much as it is a recognition of the effort Shaw put forth. In the broad scheme of things, the game matters little. It wasnt a region game and, therefore, doesnt count against Shaws playoff hopes. But you could see on the players and coaches faces after the game how much they wanted that win.
No matter what the scoreboard said, they played their hearts out and may have deserved a little better than they got.
A good start
Its just a couple of games, but both Hardaway and Chattahoochee County are off to impressive starts given their recent history. Hardaway won just a single game last year and ChattCo won only two, but both are off to 2-0 starts in 2012.
The Panthers did it in dramatic fashion with a 36-34 win over Terrell County on Friday, while Hardaway has shown impressive offense from young quarterback Blake Berry.
Things are about to get a lot harder for the Hawks, of course. Their next three games, all non-region matchups, come against Shaw, Lowndes and Newnan before entering their region slate.
To ask the team to continue its great play against that level of competition would be asking a lot. But win or lose going forward, there appears to be plenty of progress from Hardaway.
Looking ahead for ChattCo, the Panthers get their region schedule started next week against Bremen, a quarterfinal team last year in Class A. The Panthers have a long way to go, but it wouldnt be a stretch to call this team a playoff contender in that region.
This blog wouldnt be complete with a quick shout out to Central High for its performance against Carver-Montgomery, one of the best teams in the state of Alabama. The Red Devils defense stood tall early against Auburn-commit, Carver quarterback Jeremy Johnson, and the offense came alive late to preserve the win. No play was bigger than a touchdown connection between quarterback Jamal Howard and Deon Hall on fourth and long late in the game .How about the number of exciting games this week? There was Carvers close win over Shaw, Centrals impressive showing against Carver-Montgomery, Glenwood held on for a 53-45 win over Kingwood, Marion County topped Kendrick by a single point and ChattCo held on for its 36-34 win. It looks like were in midseason form already.
Making the grade
Some notable performances from teams and individuals this week.
--Jamal Howard, Deon Hall, Traveon Samuel, Central: You hate to leave out other great performances, like the Central defense or offensive line, but these three players are the biggest reason Central was able to win this game. Hall scored three times in the game, including a key touchdown reception late. Howard is included not for his numbers, which werent great, but for pure nerve under pressure on the late touchdown pass. And Samuel did it all: 76 rushing yards and a score, 72 receiving yards, including 71 on one play. When the passing game wasnt working, Samuel came in and took a handful of direct snaps, consistently picking up 5 and 6 yards to keep the Red Devils offense chugging along.
--The Central coaching staff: Thats right coaches. You wont be forgotten either. The adjustments they made when the passing game wasnt there early on were huge in this game. And then going back to the passing game for a couple of key plays in the fourth quarter was equally important. Overall, the staff gets an A+ in my book for its management.
--Brady Pitts, Northside: How about 237 all-purpose yards? Eighty-eight return yards, 55 through the air, 94 rushing. Oh, yeah, and he had three touchdowns. Not too bad.
--Logan Kiker, Glenwood: All Kiker was doing was filling in for the injured starter, starting his first game ever. All he did was rush for 139 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Gators to a 53-45 win over Kingwood.
--Brookstone defense: Nothing wrong with a defense that stands tall against a good team and a strong pair of runners on the opposing offense. Brookstone allowed just six points in its 24-6 win over Mount Paran Christian.
Think someone else belongs on this exclusive list? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter @leprepsports.
Here's a look at the area's power rankings. I'll list my top 5 each week. Spirited, but civil, debate is encouraged in the comments.
Its going to take a lot for the Red Devils to fall from this perch right now. They have a huge win over Carver-Montgomery under their belts and are still improving. By seasons end, this could be a very, very good football team.
Carver still hasnt put together a full game where I can see it and say, Sure, this is a state title contender. But it would be foolish to ignore its win over Shaw on Thursday, no matter the circumstances. Carver stood tall when it needed to, and that might be the type of game that starts to put things together for the team.
The Raiders were mere plays away from being No. 2 in the rankings. Unfortunately for them, all that really matters is the score on the board at the end of the game. Ill keep it No. 3 simply because I think its that good of a team. Sure, it has some growing to do, and the teams below it look good. But it did well enough to hold on to this spot.
Glenwood is off to a strong start in 2012. A close win over Kingwood and some clutch performances from a couple of players have the Gators looking good for the rest of the year.
A big win over Mount Paran Christian elevates Brookstone to a tie for fourth in my book. The team looks to be in a good place and should only get better as the season goes along.