Trojans fall in shootout with Rome

tri-frame of Carrollton football players running with the ball
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ROME — Spectators of the top-five region barnburner between the Carrollton and Rome high school football teams witnessed a combined 149 plays, 16 touchdowns and 1,253 yards of total offense in a near four-hour display of one-upmanship at historic Barron Stadium on Friday evening.

Unfortunately for the No. 5 Trojans, it was the top-ranked and two-time defending state champion Wolves who prevailed with a 65-51 victory to extend their winning streak to 31 games, dating back to the 2016 campaign.

“First and foremost, all praise and glory goes to my savior Jesus Christ. We can’t just love him up when things go good. He’s putting us through this for a reason,” Carrollton head coach Sean Calhoun said. “We talk as a team about a growth mindset. So how are we going to grow from this? I think we’re going to be a better team from this. I just know that I love this bunch just as much as I did before the game, and that’ll never change.”

The track meet began with the road Trojans (3-1, 1-1 Region 7-AAAAA) racing down to the red zone in their first drive of the heavyweight fight. Facing fourth-and-goal on the Rome 2, quarterback Kashif Taylor overthrew Brandon Marenco to turn the ball over on downs.

But fortunes would turn toward Carrollton’s favor when after a Wolves' three-and-out, Akili Smith blocked the ensuing punt through the end zone for a safety to give the visitors a 2-0 advantage.

They added on to the early lead on the following possession when an 11-yard Kodee Brewer touchdown run put them up by nine.

With decent field position to begin its next drive, Rome (4-0, 2-0) got on the board as N.C. State verbal commit Jamious Griffin darted for a 30-yard score to pull within two.

CHS would respond by capping another long drive with a 14-yard Taylor to Isaiah Lancaster touchdown to go up 16-7 toward the end of the first.

A long, scoring-filled second quarter began with both powerhouses trading touchdowns. A three-yard run by Rome quarterback Knox Kadum was countered with a 39-yard Kodee Brewer run on second- and-33, setting up another Taylor to Lancaster connection to put the Trojans up 23-14.

Things started coming up for the two-time defending AAAAA champs midway through the period, however.

After finding the end zone again on its following drive, RHS defensive end Montrell Milsap ended up recovering a fumble on the following Carrollton possession, eventually setting up a Kadum to Xavier Roberts-Donaldson touchdown to give the Wolves their first lead of the night.

As was the theme, CHS answered right back when Taylor found Marenco streaking up the right sideline for a 65-yard score on the first play of the drive. A missed extra point would leave the game tied at 29-all.

The Wolves would have the final say of the half, constructing another scoring drive that ended with a 25-yard Tyreke Griffin touchdown reception to put RHS back up. A failed extra point attempt would leave them clinging to a 35-29 heading into the half.

But they picked right up where they left off at the start of the third when Griffin turned a would-be loss into a 41-yard dash to the end zone to extend Rome’s lead by 13. The scoring would cease momentarily as both teams traded punts for the rest of the third.

However, the pace would pick right back up to begin the fourth by trading touchdowns.

After a 20-yard Austin Waldrop touchdown reception made the game 52-44 in Rome’s favor, Roberts-Donaldson responded with a spin move off a screen pass for a 58-yard Wolves counter. He’d finish the game 247 yards on 11 receptions and four touchdowns.

A Carrollton turnover on downs on the following drive would set up the knockout blow for RHS, a 13-yard score by Griffin, who finished with a career-high 285 yards on 29 carries and four touchdowns.

Carrollton tacked on a 50-yard touchdown run from Trent Lane, but time simply wasn’t on its side at that point, as the Trojans dropped their first region contest of the season.

“I’m proud of the way our kids fought on both sides of the ball. I’m proud of our offensive game plan. Coach (John) Cooper and the offensive staff was dialed in. But you know what, it wasn’t enough,” Calhoun said. “There’s going to be games that are 3-0 and the defense has to bail out the offense and then there’s games like (Friday) where you might have to outscore somebody. That’s the beauty of a team game. We didn’t make it happen and that’s me as the head coach. I didn’t get the full team ready. I’m going to learn from this, regroup and get ready for next week.”

Offensively, the junior Taylor went 27-of-44 through the air for 337 yards and five touchdowns and no interceptions. Lancaster had 133 yards receiving and three touchdowns on a game-high 14 receptions, while Brewer finished his night with 148 yards on the ground on 11 carries.

The Trojans will try to regroup next Friday when hosting East Paulding for homecoming after the Raiders rebounded (1-2, 1-0) for a big win over Kell in their region opener on Friday.

“The last couple of years, we haven’t played good on homecoming,” Calhoun said. “We have to be able to be mature and handle the festivities because those Fridays are a little bit different than normal. I wish that wasn’t the case, but it is. Last year was a barnburner and they’ll come in ready to roll, so we have to learn from this and grow from it.”

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