Carver coach Joseph Kegler had a simple message for his defense at halftime Friday night.
"We're going to put this on your back and you guys go ahead and take us to the third round," he recalled telling the unit.
The defense went out and followed those marching orders to a T, putting forth a dominant performance in helping Carver blank Jefferson County 19-0 at Memorial Stadium in the second round of the Class AAA playoffs.
How good was the Tigers' (11-1) defense?
They didn't even allow the Warriors to break into triple-digits in total offense, as the visitors finished with just 95 yards (58 rushing, 37 passing). Due to the stellar play of his defense, Kegler used an ultra-conservative approach offensively in the final two quarters, as Carver took to the air just three times. The Tigers completed two of those attempts, one in spectacular fashion.
Following a blocked punt by Daniel Melvin, the Tigers took over at the Warriors' 28-yard line. It took just one play for Carver to cross the goal line for the third time -- and this time, the hosts used a little trickery courtesy of the Pass siblings. Younger brother and starting quarterback Jawon Pass hit old
er brother Khane on a quick pass at the line of scrimmage. Khane then looked downfield and tossed it to a leaping Raekwon Lowe at the 2-yard line, who broke a tackle and fought his way into the end zone to extend the Tigers' lead to 19-0 with just 3.2 seconds to play in the third period.
It was the final score of the night, as Carver's defense put the clamps Jefferson County (8-4) for the duration.
"I told them earlier in the week this would be a great time for our first shutout of the year, and they did a great job of stepping up," Kegler said.
A heads-up play by the defense also helped set up the first score of the contest. Following a pair of fruitless possessions to open the game, Carver took over at its own 36-yard line after senior linebacker Mike Barker jumped on the loose football with just 45 seconds to play in the first period.
From there, the Tigers went on a 10-play, 64-yard drive to break a scoring drought that lasted the entire first stanza. Senior fullback Noah Hickey did the honors, as he took it up the middle from the 3-yard line -- busting through a pile of defenders in the process -- to put the Tigers up 6-0. After failing on four two-point conversions in last week's 38-32 triple-overtime thriller against B.E.S.T Academy, the Tigers decided to do things more conventionally Friday night.
It paid off, as Dreilon Freeman's extra-point was true with 8:36 remaining in the first half.
But the Tigers weren't finished scoring in the second quarter.
Facing a third-and-eight at its own 47-yard line, Jawon Pass hooked up with his favorite target, Nate Barley, 10 yards past the line of scrimmage. The junior receiver took care of the rest, using superb downfield blocking by his teammates to hit pay dirt on a 53-yard scoring strike with just 1:07 left before halftime. This time, the PAT was no good, as the Warriors were able to bat down the attempt to keep the Tigers' advantage at 13-0 heading into the locker room.
Of course, it didn't matter when the second half rolled around, as Carver's defense played even better in the final two quarters (30 yards of total offense allowed) than it did in the first two (65 yards).
A marked area of improvement for the Tigers was in the penalty department; after drawing 15 flags last week, Carver had nearly half as many (eight) Friday night. While one of those called back a touchdown -- after having three negated versus B.E.S.T. Academy in the first round -- Kegler simply shrugged it off, noting his team should be able to do the same.
"That's going to happen in games," he said. "You've just got to keep moving on to the next play."
A date with Buford -- which beat Woodward Academy 40-7 at home Friday night -- awaits Carver next week.
Kegler said that he would meet with the Wolves' coaching staff on Saturday morning in Newnan for a coin flip to decide which team hosts next Friday's quarterfinal matchup. The Tigers are familiar with the Wolves, facing them four times since 2010, with the Gwinnett County powerhouse holding a 3-1 edge.
Given their credentials -- the Wolves have won five state titles in the past six years -- Kegler was aware they needed no introduction.
"Buford is just Buford. They're always good," he said. "It'll be a tough ballgame next week."
Friday at Memorial Stadium
Jefferson Co. 0 0 0 0 --0
Carver 0 13 6 0--19
CHS- Noah Hickey 3 run (Dreilon Freeman kick), 8:36
CHS- Nate Barley 53 pass from Jawon Pass (Freeman kick no good), 1:07
CHS- Rawkwon Lowe 28 pass from Khane Pass (Two-point conversion no good)
Records: Carver 11-1. Jefferson County 8-4. Next: Carver, vs. Buford, Friday, site TBD. Jefferson County, season over.