On the opening night of Region 7-AAAAA play, the Carrollton High School football team poured it on rival Villa Rica in a contest it controlled from start to finish at Grisham Stadium.
The No. 5 Trojans built a commanding 31-0 lead by halftime and ran away with a 52-3 win over the Wildcats to start the journey toward the postseason on the right foot Friday evening.
"First and foremost, I've got to give all praise and glory to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. It was a tough week for this school system losing Mrs. (Malinda) Brewer. We put a sticker on our helmet for her family and (Carrollton) Elementary School. They're with us," Trojan head coach Sean Calhoun said. "It was a great atmosphere and a great night."
Carrollton (3-0) scored on all five of its first-half possessions with a field goal and four touchdowns, while the defense was dominant in containing the Wildcats' Wing-T attack to 104 yards of total offense in the first half with linebacker Chaz Chambliss (5.5 tackles, sack, 3.0 TFL) and safety Reid Dedman (5.0 tackles, INT) serving as the top Trojan defensive stalwarts.
"That's nothing but preparation from our defensive staff, led by defensive coordinator Brian Simmons. That's nothing but our kids buying in, our scout team giving a great look all week and our kids just being focused," Calhoun said. "Playing an offense like that, you miss something and they're out the gate. For us to play that way in the first half, it set the tone."
On the other side of the ball, junior quarterback Kashif Taylor had an exceptional evening as a dual-threat weapon, completing 13-of-15 attempts for 164 yards with three touchdowns and zero interceptions, while also rushing for 94 yards and a score.
Taylor connected with four different receivers on the night, including touchdown strikes of 22 and 12 yards to Isaiah Lancaster and a three-yard hook-up with Miles McLendon.
"He's getting better and he's getting more confident with this offense. The biggest thing is making smart decisions. As a quarterback, you've got to make smart decisions. He was the best player on the field (Friday) — no doubt about it," Calhoun said. "I'm proud of him. I gave him a big ole hug and told him let's just keep getting better."
For Villa Rica head coach Rico Zackery, it's still a matter of battling through some growing pains in what made for a frustrating league opener Friday night, which was compounded by junior standout Mecose Todd getting ejected in the closing minute of the first half, meaning he will also have to sit out next week's region game against Cass.
"We're young, but that's no excuse for the way we played (Friday)," Zackery said. "We didn't match their intensity, we made a lot of mistakes. With a bunch of guys that are first-year players, you're going to have some mistakes. It's just about how you respond and I don't think in some situations we responded the right way."
Trailing 31-0 at halftime, the Wildcats (1-2) came out of the locker room and put together their best drive of the evening by getting inside the 10-yard line. Penalties, however, forced them to settle for a 41-yard Luke Millians field goal with 7:06 to go in the third to get on the board.
Junior wing back Phillip Zachery also had a big second half for Villa Rica, finishing with a game-high 116 yards on seven carries with a long of 41 yards.
But by that point, it was too little, too late as the Trojans smelled blood early and never relented the rest of the way.
Carrollton opened the scoring on a 19-yard Connor Smith-McCrum field goal on its first possession of the evening and then made it 10-0 courtesy of a three-yard toss from Taylor to McLendon with 1:27 to go in the first.
Following a Dedman interception, Taylor found Lancaster for the first of the senior wideout's two touchdowns, this one from 22 yards out, and Taylor used his legs on the next possession to hit paydirt on a 13-yard run.
Just before halftime, Carrollton tailback Kodee Brewer pounded his way into the end zone on a two-yard run for the 31-0 margin at the break.
Following the field goal by Millians midway through the third, Lancaster landed in the end zone again on a 12-yard pass from Taylor to end the night for the Trojan starters.
Trojan freshman Keshawn Ridley added a nine-yard touchdown run and with a running clock fourth quarter, backup quarterback Myles Morris tacked on a five-yard touchdown run with 3:31 to play.
As a whole, the Carrollton offense tallied 477 yards of total offense, much to the delight of Calhoun and offensive coordinator John Cooper.
"We just hung 52 points on a region opponent, which is hard to do," Calhoun said. "It probably could have been a lot more, but it's always great when you can empty the bench. Us being able to play everybody (Friday), now they're getting extra experience."
For the Wildcats, it's a matter of putting the loss behind them and turning the focus to Cass, which suffered a 17-7 setback to Woodland, Cartersville in its region opener on Friday.
"These guys have got to be able to move on and they've got to respond to what happened (Friday)," Zackery said. "There's still a lot to play for. So next week we want to come out and do the best we can every single day. That's going to be the most important thing is doing right with what's in front of us and continue to get better. It's so early. You can't give up right now. You've got to keep playing."
The Trojans are now tasked with preparing for a road trip to try to dethrone two-time defending region and state champion Rome, which cruised past Kell on Friday night in a 35-6 decision.
"Going into Rome, obviously, we haven't watched any film yet. But we know who they are. We're going to have to have a better week of practice and play a better game if we're going to try to be in their league," Calhoun said. "But we're going to enjoy this one first, I promise you that."