Both teams followed their script Friday night, but Eufaula fell just short of their third straight comeback losing to the Eagles of Carroll High School 35-23 in the ALFCA Game of the Week.
Using their punishing ground game, Carroll racked up 313 yards rushing in 49 attempts.. Coach Roger McDonald had said before the game that the physical run game was their way to shorten the game and hopefully wear down Eufaula.
That appeared to be happening in the second half, as Carroll scored on its first two possessions after halftime. With the scored tied at 14-14, Mazue Martin ripped off a 56 yard run and then Markel Lewis sprinted 55 yards in the third quarter to give Carroll a 28-14 lead and seemingly control of the game.
“We just fought the whole game,” Carroll Head Coach Roger McDonald said. “Our guys have bought into tough, hard-nosed play. The coaches have bought into it, too. Our four-yard carries turn into 40-yard carries.”
Eufaula started a touchdown drive of its own to respond, but a fumble going in at the 2 yard line after a pass completion ended the threat. Shi’toris Mulker recovered for Carroll in the end zone for a touchback, keeping the score at 28-14.
The Tigers stopped Carroll and forced a punt deep in Eagle territory. A bad snap caused John Goolsby to fall on the ball for a safety. Carroll’s lead was cut to 28-16 with 2:04 left in the third quarter, setting up the fourth quarter dramatics.
The Tigers also reached the Carroll seven yard line early in the fourth but turned the ball over on downs after a third-down pass was dropped on the goal line. But Eufaula got the ball back and scored with 6:26 left in the game on a one yard touchdown by Joe Green to cut Carroll’s lead to 28-23. Coach Bryan Moore had said before the game that his team would need some defensive stops throughout the contest. His defense rose to the occasion and held Carroll on four plays. After the punt, the Tigers had good field position at their own 43 and once again the stage was set for a dramatic fourth quarter comeback.
But Carroll wasn’t through yet. Showing the character that has led them to 16 straight regular season wins, the Eagles stopped Eufaula on four plays and took over the ball. Good teams finish games, and Carroll used its rushing attack to ice the game when Mazue Martin scored from one yard out with 1:22 left.
The game opened as the hometown Tigers started fast. An 11 play drive led to a Zy Tennille one yard touchdown for a 7-0 lead. Carroll responded with a 38 yard touchdown blast to tie the game at 7-7. Tennille’s second effort, 12 yard scamper gave Eufaula the lead at 14-7 with 5:28 remaining before half.
But the Tiger defense, led all night by Brandon Hudgins, couldn’t get one of those stops Coach Moore referred to and Carroll drove down and scored just before the end of the half. On its first and only pass effort of the first half, Carroll quarterback Timothy McClendon hit Tyler Benton with a 15 yard scoring pass to knot the score at 14-14 with 1:04 left.
Eufaula quarterback Steven Gover completed 16-30 for 108 yards, but the Tiger receivers had some drops that could have been big gains. Tennille had 19 carries for 78 yards.
“We haven’t had those mistakes all year,” Moore said. “If we get both of those touchdowns that we think we would have had it’s a different ballgame. The players will beat themselves up over this because they care. But those are the right people that we went to and we’ll do it again.”
Eufaula limited top Eagle runner Jonathan Fells to only 43 yards on 20 carries, but Martin had 150 yards on 10 attempts, Markel Lewis had 69 yards on nine carries and quarterback McClendon added 66 on four tries.
In the end, the Carroll rushing attack and too may Eufaula mistakes were the difference. “Eufaula is a great football team that is well-coached,” Coach McDonald said.
Carroll will try and continue their regular season win streak against non region foe W.S. Neal next week. Eufaula is off. The win puts the Eagles in sole possession of first place in the region race. and runs their record to 4-0. Eufaula falls to 3-2 on the season.