The Carver offense couldn’t quite get on the same page in the passing game on Thursday against Tri-Cities, and its regular starting running back Noah Hickey was on the sidelines due to injury.
Enter: Dequindre Coleman.
Getting the bulk of the carries in place of Hickey, Coleman rushed for 169 yards on 21 carries in a 22-17 win over Tri-Cities at A.J. McClung Memorial Stadium, rescuing an offense that had otherwise been stagnant over the past two weeks
“They left the run play open all night,” Coleman said after the game. “They couldn’t stop it. We did a lot of running in practice tonight, and the line just did a good job blocking.”
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The win helped Carver (3-1) avoid its first consecutive losses since 2008 and ended its non-region schedule on a good note as it prepares to head to Pike County next week for its first Region 2-AAA contest.
Coleman never got in the end zone in this game, but he repeatedly picked up big chunks of yardage, particularly in the second half, giving Carver the spark on offense that it needed. In the second half alone, he carried for 126 yards, including 48 on back-to-back plays.
After Tri-Cities had scored to cut Carver’s lead to 15-14 in the third quarter, Coleman immediately rushed for 5, 21 and 27 yards on consecutive plays to get the Tigers deep into Bulldogs territory. That particular drive ended on a fumble, but Carver found life on offense after being relatively silent for the majority of the first three quarters.
“He really just provided us a spark,” coach Joe Kegler said. “When he had those big runs, it gave us a little life. I thought we came out a little flat in the second half, so after that we had a little spark.”
The ensuing Tri-Cities drive after the Carver fumble resulted in a three-and-out as the defense began to gain some traction against the Bulldogs slippery quarterback Karim Wallace. Carver then took over possession, marched 58 yards in 11 plays and running five minutes off the clock. Coleman carried five times for 22 yards on the drive, setting up a 3-yard keeper by quarterback Jawon Pass that made the score 22-14.
Tri-Cities added a field goal after that and made it as close as the Carver 22-yard line on a potential game-winning drive inside of two minutes, but the Tigers defense stood tall, forced five incompletions on the final drive and held on for the win.
“For the most part, the defense played well,” Kegler said. “The offense left them out there two much, put them in some tough spots, but I thought they played well.”
Kegler was referring to a handful of stalled drives early and two turnovers. That turnover number could have been higher as the offense fumbled the ball five times, but lost only one. It was also 0 for 4 on fourth-down conversions in the game.
The defense was bolstered by Kiante Walton, who had two first-half interceptions, one of which resulted in the Tigers’ lone touchdown before the break. On the second play from scrimmage, Walton stepped in front of a pass by Wallace and returned it to the Bulldogs 13. Four plays later, Pass hit Nate Barley for a 15-yard touchdown pass to give Carver an early 7-0 lead.
The score held up until the end of the first half when Wallace passed for 51 yards and ran for another 19, culminating in a 2-yard score that tied the game going into the break.
A safety and a 10-yard touchdown run by Fred Coleman put Carver back out front early in the second half, but Wallace struck again with a beautiful 20-yard touchdown pass to Rae’quan Morgan that made it a one-point game. That was as close as the game would get.
Kegler wasn’t satisfied with the team’s effort and let them know after the game, telling them to enjoy the win but not to be satisfied.
“We’ve just got to work to get better,” he said. “Region play starts next week.”
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Thursday at A.J. McClung Memorial Stadium
Tri-Cities 0 7 7 3—14
Carver 7 0 8 7—22
C—Nate Barley 15 pass from Jawon Pass (Estrada kick); 9:02
TC—Karim Wallace 2 run (Alex Hernandez kick); :24
C—Fred Coleman 10 run (kick blocked); 6:53
TC—Rae’Quan Morgan 20 pass from Wallace (Alex Hernandez kick); 5:54
C—Jawon Pass 3 run (Oscar Estrada kick); 9:30
TC—Alex Hernandez 35 field goal; 6:02
Records: Tri-Cities, 0-3-1; Carver, 3-1. Next: Tri-Cities, Sept. 27 vs. Carver-Montgomery (Ala.); Carver, Sept. 27 at Pike County.