Joe Kegler’s head coaching debut wasn’t perfect for his Carver Tigers.
There were too many penalties, a turnover and missed opportunities, among other things, but it was a win nonetheless. The Tigers defeated Spencer 40-3 in the 51st annual Heritage Bowl on Friday at A.J. McClung Memorial Stadium, marking the 15th consecutive victory in the series for Carver.
It was the first career win for Kegler, who took over the Tigers program in the spring. Kegler wasn’t satisfied at the end of the game, however, noting that this was just the start to another season.
“No, it’s just the start to a season,” Kegler said when asked if there was anything special about the victory for him. “We did alright, but we made way too many mistakes.”
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At the start to the game, it appeared like Carver had fixed a lot of the mental mistakes it made in a scrimmage against Central a week ago. After forcing Spencer into a three-and-out on its first drive and then stopping it on fourth down when there was a botched snap, sophomore quarterback Jawon Pass, making his first official start, hit wide receiver Dreilon Freeman for a 35-yard touchdown pass on the first play of the ensuing drive.
The Tigers forced another three-and-out on Spencer’s next possession, then marched 56 yards in less than two minutes, culminating in a 32-yard touchdown run by Noah Hickey.
On the run, Hickey broke five tackles, spinning away from Spencer defenders before falling into the end zone with one on his back.
Hickey scored again to start the fourth quarter, this one a 5-yarder to finish his day. He notched 93 yards and two touchdowns on 14 carries en route to earning the Wallace Davis Hustle Award, given to the winning team’s most valuable player.
“First, I just have to thank my line,” he said. “Without them, I wouldn’t have done anything today. Other than that, it was just force of will, running hard. If I can, I’m just going to do everything I can for my team.”
Pass connected with Derrell Hicks for a 17-yard touchdown pass later in the quarter to put Carver ahead 21-0, but the Tigers offense was slowed after that by a Spencer defense that appeared to be improved over last year’s edition. It got one more touchdown, this one on a 2-yard run by Pass, in the second quarter to take a 28-3 lead into the half, but was silenced until Hickey’s fourth-quarter touchdown put the game away.
Karpatrick Rogers scored on an 8-yard run in mop-up time to wrap up the scoring for Carver.
Kegler noted the team’s mental mistakes and penalties as keys to its stalled drives after the first quarter. Pass missed a couple of open receivers on long pass attempts that could have resulted in touchdowns if not for poor timing, and the Tigers committed nine penalties for 79 yards in the game.
“We can’t get lazy and make those mistakes,” Kegler said. “We had way too many mental mistakes.”
Overall, Pass’s numbers were good. He was 11 of 19 for 137 yards, two touchdowns and an interceptions. Freeman hauled in six of those passes for 70 yards and a touchdown, and Nate Barley had five receptions for 58 yards. Fred Coleman also contributed 64 yards on the ground.
Hickey said he thought the team had the talent to become one of the state’s best offenses, but it had to eliminate the penalties and keep its tempo throughout the game.
In the losing effort, Spencer was led by quarterback Tarvaraska Davis, who was 12 of 18 for 191 yards, and Damarkus Robins who had six receptions for 121 yards. Davis earned the top player nod for the game from Spencer.
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Friday at A.J. McClung Memorial Stadium
Carver 21 7 0 12--40
Spencer 0 3 0 0--3
C—Freeman 35 pass from J. Pass (Estrada kick); 9:11
C—Hickey 32 run (Estrada kick); 5:10
C—Hicks 17 pass from J. Pass (Estrada kick); 1:46
S—Amable 35 field goal; 7:28
C—J. Pass 2 run (Estrada kick); 2:42
C—Hickey 5 run (2-pt. failed); 11:50
C—Rogers 8 run (kick failed); :59
Records: Carver, 1-0; Spencer, 0-1. Next: Carver, 7:30 p.m. Friday vs. Shaw at Memorial Stadium; Spencer, 7 p.m. Thursday vs. Randolph-Clay at Memorial Stadium