The Carrollton High School football team returned to Grisham Stadium hoping to put on a show for the home crowd in a marquee region matchup against Kell.
Instead, it ended up being the Evan Conley show as the Longhorn star signal-caller delivered a career performance upon igniting the visitors to a 31-10 upset of the fourth-ranked Trojans on Friday night.
Conley could do no wrong in slicing through the Carrollton defense with his feet and picking it apart with his arm, combing for 353 yards of total offense with four touchdowns, rushing for 165 yards and two scores and completing 11-of-22 pass attempts for 188 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions. He added a 52-yard punt and another punt that pinned the Trojans at their own two-yard line, for good measure.
The bulk of the damage came in the first half with Kell storming out to a 24-10 advantage by the break and Conley accounting for 263 yards of offense and three touchdowns through 24 minutes.
"First and foremost, two things. One, all praise and glory goes to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for giving us a beautiful night to play and giving us all the ability to play the game and to coach the game," Carrollton head coach Sean Calhoun said. "Second off, this falls on me. I didn't get our team ready. That ain't going to happen again. That's on me. They've got players and they made plays. We talked about making more of them. It just wasn't our night. Their quarterback is a good player, but this falls on me. I've got to get our team better prepared."
On the other side of the ball, the Kell defensive front — led by Justin Talley with eight takedowns and three sacks — was giving Carrollton (6-2, 4-2 Region 7-AAAAA) fits for the majority of the evening. And then to top it off, when the Trojans did have their opportunities, they didn't capitalize in what proved to be an all-around frustrating outing for the guys in Black and Gold.
Carrollton had a pair of turnovers in Kell territory, a blocked punt that set up first-and-10 at the 11 only to settle for a field goal and were held scoreless for the entire second half. The 10-point tally marks the lowest scoring output for Carrollton in Calhoun's three years at the helm.
"When you start looking at us getting the blocked punt and only getting the field goal and just some bad stuff happening. We've got to capitalize on situations and we did not capitalize on enough of them," Calhoun said.
Following an 0-2 start in region play, the Longhorns (5-2, 3-2) have worked their way right back into the discussion for a potential No. 2 seed, while the Trojans now have their work cut out for them to have the opportunity to host a first-round state playoff game as there is a log-jam of contenders battling for the No. 2-4 seeds behind first-place Rome.
Initially on Friday, Kell didn't come out looking like a team poised to put up nearly 400 yards of total offense and more than 30 points as defense defined the opening 12 minutes.
Neither team recorded a first down on their opening three possessions of the game with Carrollton getting the game's first points on a key play on special teams when junior lineman Robert Johnson got his big paw on a Longhorn punt, setting the Trojans up at the Kell 11-yard line.
But the Longhorn defense stood tall, holding the host squad to a 24-yard Connor Smith-McCrum field goal at the 5:08 mark of the first quarter, marking Carrollton's only lead of the night.
Following three consecutive three-and-outs, Kell exploded on its fourth drive, moving the chains for the first time all game — for either team — on a 16-yard pass from Conley to Camron Ball.
And once Conley got going, he didn't stop.
Two plays later, Conley scrambled away from a handful of Trojan defenders and found Ebony Jackson, who took it the rest of the way by weaving in and around the Carrollton defense for a 49-yard score and 7-3 lead.
The Trojan offense found some life late in the first quarter and into the opening minutes of the second, driving all the way down to the Kell 5, but quarterback Kashif Taylor was picked off by Stefan Green, who returned the interception to the Longhorn 30 to negate a Carrollton scoring opportunity. It signaled the second turnover in Kell territory of the first half for the Trojans, who fumbled on the second play of their first possession of the night at the Longhorn 32-yard line. Carrollton had 28 yards of total offense on 15 snaps in the first quarter.
Kell would capitalize on the turnover, marching 70 yards on 10 plays and scoring on a broken play where Conley got to the edge for a seven-yard run to stretch the score to 14-3 with 6:44 left in the half.
The Trojans answered with a six-play, 64-yard scoring drive, using a 37-yard pass from Taylor to Isaiah Lancaster to set up a six-yard Taylor touchdown run to cut the deficit to 14-10 with 4:38 to go before halftime.
Once again, though, Conley took the reins of the Longhorn offense and ran the ball right down the defense's throat as the signal-caller crossed the 100-yard rushing threshold on the drive.
As the visitors continued to gain momentum, Kell tacked on a 35-yard Logan Flesher field goal for the 17-10 margin.
Carrollton had a 10-yard punt on its next possession, setting the Longhorns up at the Trojan 46 with 1:16 remaining and no timeouts.
But that was of little concern for Conley, who capped off his dominating first half with a 32-yard touchdown strike to Jaylen Brown with 9.9 ticks to go en route to the 24-10 halftime tally.
Following a quiet third quarter, Conley delivered the dagger with his four-yard touchdown run late in the period.
Trent Lane led Carrollton with 63 yards on 17 carries, while Taylor, who was under pressure all night, completed 10-of-21 attempts for 164 yards with no touchdowns, two interceptions and was sacked four times. Steven Slappey caught four balls for 63 yards.
The Longhorns return home to host Cass next week, while the Trojans have an open date before hitting the road for Paulding County on Oct. 26.
Even though Friday night didn't go its way, Calhoun fully expects his squad to pick itself up off the mat and continue to battle toward the postseason.
"We've got everything to play for. Our 'Pursuit' that we talk about is still fully intact. This is a team of fighters. This is a team of Trojans. They didn't quit (Friday). We didn't do our best, but I love them just as much right now as I did when I woke up this morning. That ain't going to change," Calhoun said. "We're going to use this bye week to get better and we're going to fight and we're going to find a way to win the next one. We've just got to get better."