The Carrollton High School football team closed out its non-region schedule with a romp of Riverdale on Friday night at Grisham Stadium, setting the stage for a huge stretch of action upon kicking off the 7-AAAAA slate next week.
The No. 5 Trojans took care of business against the previously unbeaten Raiders in a 35-6 decision, improving to 2-0 on the campaign behind what head coach Sean Calhoun labeled as an improved overall effort from a week ago in competing for the full 48 minutes.
"First and foremost, all praise and thanks goes out to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for giving us the ability and just the ability to be around this great game of football and great atmosphere. It was a beautiful night for football," Calhoun said. "I was proud of the way our kids fought. We had talked about all week putting four quarters together. I think if you minus just a couple of plays, I feel like we had a more complete game than last week. We did some really good things on all three phases and we did some stuff that we've really got to get better at in all three phases. That all goes to our kids and how they prepared and how they were prepared mentally and physically."
The big-play bugaboo from the second half of the East Coweta contest carried over into the first quarter of Friday night's rendezvous with Riverdale (2-1), as Raider quarterback Avaun Rucker found T.J. Moore on a 48-yard scoring strike to put the visitors up 6-0 midway through the first quarter.
The Trojans (2-0) answered on the next possession by marching 65 yards on nine plays and scoring on a one-yard run by Kodee Brewer. A two-point run by Chase Sippola put Carrollton ahead for good.
Special teams would set up the Trojans' next score when Reid Dedman blocked a punt in Riverdale territory at the 39.
On the first play of the possession, junior quarterback Kashif Taylor connected with Austin Waldrop on a 28-yard pass to set up a two-yard Brewer touchdown run and 15-6 lead following the successful PAT from Connor Smith-McCrum.
Late in the second quarter, Sippola, who also serves as the Trojan long snapper, came up big on special teams again by recovering a fumble following a Trojan punt at the Riverdale 41. Taylor found Virgil Brewer for a 14-yard touchdown with 26 ticks left on the clock for a 22-6 halftime lead with Damean Dominguez delivering the PAT this time.
In the second half, Trojan freshman Keshawn Ridley got his groove on with touchdown runs of two and 25 yards in the third quarter to put the game out of reach.
Ridley rushed for a game-high 122 yards and two touchdowns on 11 carries, marking one of several talents in the Trojan backfield stable.
"We're very fortunate. We've got a handful of kids that we feel confident in and Keshawn was that guy (Friday) that got that hot hand. We kind of just kept him in it. He had some really nice runs and did a really good job. He's a very patient runner and does a really good job of doing what he's coached to do," Calhoun said. "If it's one guy doing it one night or if it's running back by committee, I'll take it either way."
Taylor was 15-of-18 for 154 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions, while Virgil Brewer had five receptions for 55 yards and a score and Waldrop added 47 yards on two receptions.
Defensively, junior linebacker Kevin Swint was once again a wrecking ball with 5.5 tackles, including two for a loss, while Brock Bibbee added five tackles and Dedman and Sippola both tallied Trojan takeaways.
"It's a great sign. We didn't like giving up the big play early, which we talked about all week. We limited them to one, and that one was just a busted coverage. Somebody had their eyes in the wrong spot and we'll get that corrected," Calhoun said. "I was really proud of our defense. We recovered a fumble and had an interception, so the defense caused two turnovers, we blocked two punts. Those are game-changing plays right there."
Now Carrollton gears up for the grind of Region 7-AAAAA, beginning with a rivalry bout against Villa Rica next week at Grisham Stadium. The Wildcats (1-1) are coming off an open date on Friday following their win over M.L. King in Week 2.
"We're excited about region play. Everybody has got their eyes on the region championship and home playoff games, and we're no different," Calhoun said. "Getting into region play is exciting. It's going to be exciting to play in Grisham Stadium in front of the Trojan Nation. I know everybody is going to come out and support our kids and be as supportive as they have been. It's exciting times."