In the offseason, the talk surrounding Carver was how on earth they were going to find a way to replace the leadership and production of a quarterback like Jawon Pass. Surely, no single player could do that for the Tigers.
Perhaps not, but the combination of quarterbacks Xaiyhir Jacobs and Romello Kimbrough might be able to come close.
After a shaky outing in the season-opener against Opelika, which ended in a 34-7 loss, Jacobs and Kimbrough provided a spark to the Carver offense on Friday in the 54th annual Heritage Bowl. The Tigers rolled to a 26-0 victory, their 18th in a row over the Greenwave, and the quarterbacks were a major reason why.
Jacobs, of course, got the majority of the snaps. After a week in which he admittedly had some nerves, he said he was much more confident and comfortable in the offense in Week 2. He connected on 10 of 19 passes for 102 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions.
His opening drive was a methodical eight-play, 70-yard series that ended in a 5-yard touchdown pass to running back Cameron Jessie. He had a 19-yard touchdown pass to Juvantae Martin on the opening play of another drive that quarter and added a 7-yard scoring strike to Jessie in the third.
“(Jacobs) played very well tonight,” Carver coach Dre’Mail King said. “He controlled the offense, he had a nice tempo, he made some good checks. He’s only going to get better.”
“I felt a lot more confident, and the first drive boosted my confidence,” he said. “I trusted my receivers and my blockers all night.”
Kimbrough didn’t get a ton of snaps, but he made the most of them while he was in. In the third quarter, he busted a long 40-yard touchdown run that essentially put the game out of reach for the Greenwave, given how well the Carver defense was playing. He finished the night with four carries for 58 yards.
“I owe that run all to the offensive line,” Kimbrough said. “They opened the hole and I just hit it.”
Maybe, but it was his speed and versatility that put the defense on its heels. It’s a combination that King said can work to the Tigers favor the rest of the season.
“It’s a nice combination,” King said. “I think that it helps a lot. We’d like to use (Kimbrough) a little more in the passing game, too. We just didn’t have much of a chance tonight.”
The plan is to take advantage of the opportunities in the future. Together, they can begin to replace the production taken away by Pass’ graduation.
Final score: Carver 26, Spencer 0
Key play: Trailing 7-0 and lining up to punt from its own 39-yard line, Spencer suffered a bad snap to put Carver at the Greenwave 19 to start its ensuing drive. On the first play of the drive, Tigers quarterback Xaihyir Jacobs hit Juvantae Martin for a 19-yard touchdown pass to go ahead 14-0. Rather than minimizing damage, Spencer found itself down by two scores, and it never recovered.
Difference makers: Xaiyhir Jacobs, quarterback, Carver — After a shaky outing in the season-opener against Opelika, Jacobs found a much better rhythm from the outset against Spencer. He led an 8-play, 70-yard drive to open the game and continued his strong play throughout. He finished 10-of-19 for 102 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions; Cameron Jessie, running back, Carver — Jessie’s numbers didn’t jump off the page like a week ago, as he carried for just 60 yards rushing and had 19 yards receiving. Two of those receptions were touchdown catches, though, and he put constant pressure on the Spencer defense grinding out extra yards after contact; Lyndon Johnson, defensive lineman, Carver — Johnson was a constant pest in the backfield for the Tigers, putting pressure on Spencer quarterback Khalil Thomas and blowing up running plays at the point of attack.
Individual stats: Carver — Romello Kimbrough, quarterback, carried four times for 58 yards and a 40-yard touchdown; Juvantae Martin, wide receiver, six receptions for 50 yards and a touchdown; Anthony LaGrand, defensive back, one interception on defense; Spencer — Khalil Thomas, quarterback, 10 of 21 for 106 and two interceptions, eight carries for 43 yards; Jaleel Grimes, running back, five receptions for 56 yards; Giovonnia Moore, linebacker, recorded a sack and a fumble recovery.
Coach quote: “(Xaiyhir) Jacobs played very well tonight,” Carver coach Dre’Mail King said. “He controlled the offense, he had a nice tempo, he made some good checks. He’s only going to get better.”
Player quote: “I give an A-plus-plus to the defense,” Carver quarterback Xaiyhir Jacobs said. “They did everything we needed them to. They saved our butts a couple of times.”
Carver 26, Spencer 0
Friday at A.J. McClung Memorial Stadium
C — Cameron Jessie 5 pass from Xaiyhir Jacobs (No. 92 kick); 8:43
C — Juvantae Martin 19 pass from Jacobs (No. 92 kick); 1:59
C — Romello Kimbrough 40 run (kick failed); 8:51
C — Jessie 7 pass from Jacobs (kick failed); 2:46
Records: Carver, 1-1, 0-0; Spencer, 0-1, 0-0. Next: Carver, Saturday vs. Douglas County; Spencer, Thursday vs. Northside at Kinnett Stadium.