Carver coach Joe Kegler managed only two words to describe how his first Gatorade bath as a head coach felt.
“It’s cold,” he said with a wry smile.
Cold, but satisfying.
In a game billed as a tight showdown for the Region 2-AAA crown, Kegler’s Tigers instead manhandled visiting Peach County, literally running away from the Trojans for a 44-9 victory.
The win clinched the seventh consecutive region championship for Carver, which now has the top seed out of the region and will host its first-round playoff game on Nov. 15.
“It is special, but it’s all on them,” Kegler said of his first region title as a head coach. “It’s all the hard work they put in. I was a minute part of it compared to all the work the coaches and players have put in.”
The Tigers won the game with a hard-nosed brand of football one coach described as “grown-man football,” using a phrase made popular by the University of Georgia football team last season. Junior linebacker Mekhi Brown compared the performance to another successful college program.
“It felt like we were Alabama out there,” said Brown, who, not coincidentally, is committed to play for the Crimson Tide. “We just pounded the football and made our plays on defense. We were able to go out and dominate.”
As a team, Carver totaled 486 yards of offense, 352 of which came on the ground. It had two rushers, Dequindre Coleman and Noah Hickey, top the century mark (156 and 109, respectively), and quarterback Jawon Pass added 76 of his own. Hickey reached the end zone twice, while Pass and Coleman got there once.
“It was exciting to be able to come out and pound it,” Hickey said. “We showed how hard we’ve worked for this. We found a weak point in their defense — don’t get me wrong, they have a great defense — we were just able to exploit something.”
And exploit, they did.
During one particularly dominant stretch, Carver runners gained first-down yardage on five consecutive plays. After taking an 8-0 lead on a 16-yard touchdown pass from Pass to receiver Raekwon Lowe, Carver forced a punt and then pounded the Trojans defense into submission.
On the ensuing 11-play drive, the Tigers ran it 10 times, culminating in Hickey’s first touchdown to go ahead 16-0. An onside kick returned the ball to the Carver offense, and it responded with a 26-yard touchdown run by Pass on the sixth play of the drive. It was 24-0 before the horn signaled the end of the first quarter.
“The offensive line did a great job preparing,” Kegler said. “They focused, watched their film. They played great.”
Carver added six more before the half on a 10-yard pass from Pass to receiver Nate Barley. Barley made a fantastic catch, falling out of bounds and tapping his toes in the end zone.
Overall Pass completed 10 of 14 throws for 134 yards and two touchdowns to go with his 76 yards and one score rushing.
Hickey added a second touchdown late in the third quarter, this one also for two yards, and Coleman capped his fantastic day with a 7-yard score early in the fourth. Coleman had seven runs go for more than 10 yards in the game.
Not to be overlooked, the Carver defense shut down Peach County for the majority of the game, keeping it out of the end zone and allowing just a field goal to close out the first half. Peach County’s only score came on a recovered fumble in the end zone early in the third to momentarily cut Carver’s lead to 30-9.
“We just got real mad before the game,” Brown said. “We knew our assignments, and we executed.”
Carver held Peach County to 204 total yards in the game.
The Tigers host Jackson next Friday at A.J. McClung Memorial Stadium in their regular season finale.
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Friday at A.J. McClung Memorial Stadium
Peach County 0 3 6 0—9
Carver 24 6 8 6—44
C—Raekwon Lowe 16 pass from Jawon Pass (Pass pass); 8:45
C—Noah Hickey 2 run (Pass pass); 2:56
C—Pass 26 run (Khane Pass run); :56
C—Nate Barley 10 pass from Pass (Run failed); :24
PC—Luis Medina 37 field goal; :00
PC—Elijah Grant fumble recovery (Kick failed); 9:23
C—Hickey 2 run (Derrell Hicks run); 2:32
C—Dequindre Coleman 7 run (Run failed); 10:15
Records: Peach County, 6-3, 4-1; Carver, 8-1, 5-0. Next: Peach County, Friday at Southwest-Macon; Carver, Friday vs. Jackson at A.J. McClung Memorial Stadium