For this post-game wrap, I am going to completely throw out the four pregame keys and instead focus on a handful of things I found incredibly impressive about Carver in its 48-24 win over Shaw on Friday.
There is a lot that we could talk about on both sides of the ball. The offense was clicking and the defense was suffocating. The Tigers showed us every reason it can be one of the best teams in the state.
Let's talk first about the offense.
Sophomore quarterback Jawon Pass is the obvious place to look first. Before the season, I asked coach Joe Kegler whether having such a pure pocket passer would alter the way they approach the offense. He said that was just something that would be determined on a game-by-game basis. If, for example, Pass connects on a bunch of his passes early, then it could be a game where the offense takes a lot of chances through the air.
Pencil Friday's game into that category.
Pass was 16 of 21 for 280 yards and two touchdown passes in a little over two quarters of action. He threw for 259 yards in the first half alone. He added 33 yards and two scores on the ground as well.
His connection with the wide receivers was so evident in this game, something that seemed to be lacking in the season opener despite some good plays. He was particularly lethal with wide receiver Dreilon Freeman, who caught seven passes for 151 yards and two scores.
The running game wasn't forced to do too much, though it certainly proved it could on its limited opportunities and looked plenty potent last week against Spencer.
Here's the thing about Pass: He's a sophomore. We know he is going to have some moments where he looks every bit his young age. But can you blame Carver fans and coaches if they get a little excited about the possibilities? If Friday was a preview of what Pass is capable of, Carver very well may be in for a great season.
Give the offensive line its due, as well. I only saw Pass get rushed from the pocket on a couple of occasions, and I think he only got his jersey dirty on his six carries.
It's hard to consider that the defense was outshone in this game, but that's how good the offense was. Still, how about that defense?
It tallied a handful of sacks and forced five turnovers, four of which came via interception. One interception by Dequindre Coleman was returned for a touchdown, and Tailik Quarterman had two in the game (and nearly a third).
In the first half, which was where Carver won the game, the Tigers defense allowed just 30 total yards, all via the pass.
With the game in hand, we got to see an impressive performance by a newbie in the fourth quarter, as well. Freshman Giovannia Moore deserves mention for his impressive hustle in mop-up time. The game may be in hand, but there are always moments to prove yourself, and Moore took the opportunity. He had perhaps the best hit of the night when he sacked Shaw quarterback Tyron Huff, knocking him down with one arm and forcing a fumble. Shaw recovered the ball, but Moore made his presence felt. He got his name called again later when he rushed the quarterback.
Keep an eye on him.
I could go on about Carver's performance, but I'll save some for later.
For Shaw, I know it's a frustrating loss. The Raiders came into this game really feeling like they had a chance to keep the game close and give themselves a chance late. Just because they didn't doesn't mean they aren't a capable team. It's just that they played a great football team that was firing on all cylinders.
Shaw must not let this game determine its trajectory. Go back to the drawing board, figure out what you did wrong and attack it in practice harder this week than you have all month. That's all you can do after a loss like this.
There weren't a lot of positives to draw from it, but everything is a learning experience. Shaw will get better, it will win football games and it will contend for the playoffs.
You can count on that.
This game was a close one last year.
Shaw lost to Carver 18-13, but nearly announced its return to stat relevance with a big upset. Both teams went on to nice seasons, but this game in particular left an impression.
Neither team backed down. It was a good, old-fashioned defensive showdown. If one team hit, the other one hit back harder. A couple of players on both teams have changed, but I think you can expect a lot of the same again this year.
Both defenses are ahead of their respective offenses by a little bit, so we could be in for another defensive game. Carver held Spencer to just a field goal last week, while Shaw held Northside to a safety (for those of you keeping track, that's a defensive score.)
In games like this, though, it always seems to come down to an offensive play that makes the difference. Which team has what it takes to make that happen? Shaw is strong up front, but is still trying to get comfortable under center after losing All-Bi-City offensive player of the year Chandler Whittlesey. Carver is in a similar situation, though its new quarterback is a highly-touted sophomore recruit, Jawon Pass.
Pass looked good last week, but had some areas to improve on. We'll see how he handles the strong Raider defensive front.
As mentioned above, the defenses should control most of this game. Both are very talented and were the main source of success last season. I wouldn't be surprised to see a lot of three-and-outs early while the two offenses try to gauge their opponents' attack. The first defense to blink may be the one that loses the battle.
For Shaw, get to the fourth quarter
It's not a knock on Shaw, but simply an understanding of how good Carver can be. For the Raiders to win this game, they can't put themselves in a situation where they are playing catch-up. They have to keep it manageable or they could find themselves falling further and further behind all game. Last week, Spencer allowed touchdowns to Carver on each of its first three offensive possessions. Even though the defense tightened up after that, the game was way too far out of reach.
Battle in the trenches
Both teams are very strong up front on both sides of the ball. The front seven is the best unit of both defenses, and the offensive lines are capable as well. The team that can get a push up front and start to establish the game on the ground will gain a huge advantage in the contest.
Limit the big plays
In a game like this that could be close late, big plays and momentum could make an early difference. Last week, Carver got a 35-yard touchdown pass on its first offensive play. That set the tone early. Neither team can let that happen tonight, or things could slip away from either team.
Follow along on Twitter @leprepsports for live updates throughout the game.