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St. Paul's overpowers Carroll in Class 5A playoffs
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Monday, November 27, 2017

Carroll High’s unbeaten season came to a halt when St. Paul’s scored on its first six possessions and cruised to a 37-13 victory at Matthews Stadium on Friday night.

The Saints (11-1) – likely the best squad of Saints this side of New Orleans – led 21-0 after the first quarter, 31-0 at halftime and 37-0 going to the fourth quarter.

Carroll (11-1), which hasn’t lost a regular-season game in the past two seasons, was simply overmatched. The Eagles gutted out two fourth-quarter touchdowns against a running clock on Markel Lewis’ 43-yard burst off right guard and D’Quarious Fryer’s 2-yard touchdown run on the final play of the game.

“This is no slap on our football program,” Carroll coach Roger McDonald said. “At no point in time will Carroll football ever be able to compete with that. You just looked at the best two years of Carroll football since 1989 and these kids will fight you – and we can’t compete with that.”

An Eagles team that prided itself on keeping games close against bigger and perhaps more athletic teams due to its tenacious defense discovered very early that this night would be different.

St. Paul’s started on its 20-yard line and earned two quick first downs on quarterback John Lyle’s pass completion to Jarrett Eaton and a 10-yard rush by running back Allister Finley.

With a first down at his own 43, Lyle then connected on a deep post to Eaton for 57 yards and the touchdown, putting the Saints up 7-0 with a five-play, 80-yard drive.

Carroll made a first down on its next possession, but had to punt. St. Paul’s then went 73 yards in nine plays. Running back Jordon Ingram had runs of 16 and 17 yards and caught a pass from Lyle for 19 more. Finley finished the drive with a 1-yard run and it was 14-0 with 2:30 left in the first quarter.

The Eagles went three-and-out and St. Paul’s got it back with 21 seconds left on their own 15. That was enough time for a third touchdown. Finley carried to the right, put his foot in the ground and cut sharply back left through the Carroll secondary for 53 yards. On the next play, Lyle hit tight end Oliver Willman for 33 yards on a two-play, 85-yard touchdown drive with 1.6 seconds left in the first.

St. Paul’s coach Steve Mask said the Saints wanted to start fast.

“I thought our quarterback played well early and threw the football,” Mask said. “Overall, that’s probably the best half of football we’ve played in a long time.”

It wasn’t over, either. Carroll again went three-and-out and a short punt gave St. Paul’s good field position at the Carroll 39. Ingram gained 18 yards to the Carroll 21. Three incompletions and a false start penalty set up a 43-yard field goal by Wilson Beaverstock that made it 24-0.

The Saints took advantage of another short punt and good field position on its next drive. Finley’s 23-yard run set up Ingram’s 2-yard touchdown run for a 31-0 lead with 5:46 left in the first half.

The Eagles put together a good drive at the end of the half. A nice bootleg pass from quarterback Trey Buchanan to Tyler Benton picked up 10 yards and a first down on third-and-five. A pass interference penalty kept the drive alive.

Running back Jonathan Fells converted on fourth-and-one at the St. Paul’s 28. But Thomas Russell intercepted Buchanan’s pass for Lewis deep down the left sideline and returned it about 50 yards to midfield. St. Paul’s took a knee to end the first half.

In the locker room, McDonald’s message to his players was simple.

“All you can do is go back as an individual and fight hard, show what you’ve got as a football player and battle for two quarters,” the coach said. “We weren’t going to come back and win. What are you going to do as an individual?”

Carroll never quit.

“They played hard the whole time,” McDonald said of his players. “We haven’t seen nobody just line up and whip us because they’ve got bigger, faster, stronger players and more of them. … They just can put better players than anybody else we’ve played.

“They’ve got better players than Greenville, Eufaula, Charles Henderson, all of them. Ain’t nothing we could do. I hate it for the kids, it’s just one those things.”

St. Paul’s got a turnover when Carroll fumbled on its first possession of the second half. The Saints took advantage with a 29-yard touchdown pass from Lyle to Willman for a 37-0 lead.

Fells carried 19 times for 53 yards for the Eagles. Lewis had eight carries for 79 yards, including the long touchdown run with less than six minutes remaining.

St. Paul’s running back Finley finished with seven carries with a touchdown for 99 yards – all in the first half. Ingram ran five times with a TD for 54 yards – with just one carry in the second half.

Saints quarterback Lyle, who was pulled after the first drive in the second half, finished 11 for 16 passing for 186 yards and three touchdowns.

St. Paul’s returns home next Friday to play Beauregard, which eliminated Carroll in last year’s playoffs and went on to win the 5A state championship.

McDonald said he reminded his team after the game about the Eagles’ dominant run over the past two seasons.

“It’s been amazing,” he said. “Winning is so much more fun than losing. (I told them) look at what you’ve accomplished. It’s not happened here since 1989. Be proud of what you’ve accomplished.”

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