By Mason Wittner with The Times-Georgian
This one was for Chase.
Emotions blanketed the air in Grisham Stadium on Friday night when the Carrollton High School football team took the field for the first time since Chase McDaniel passed away following his seven-month battle with cancer.
The evening was filled with countless tributes to Chase and his family. From the green flag bearing No. 42 — Chase’s jersey number — that the players ran out onto the field before the game, to the Trojan marching band forming a 42 during their halftime show, to the green wristbands, towels and shirts sported by players, coaches and fans throughout the stadium.
The Trojans were inspired by Chase’s relentless fight and spirit. And, when the time came for them to kick off their second-round Class AAAAA state playoff game against No. 2 Veterans, they honored him while giving the mourning community something to celebrate by rolling to a 21-10 victory over the Warhawks.
“Paying tribute to Chase is the least we could do,” Carrollton head coach Sean Calhoun said. “That’s the least we can do for the impact that he’s made on this program. That’s the least we can do for that family for the impact and the inspiration that they’ve been to myself, Chase’s teammates and this community.
“God was everywhere this week; He was all over this. I’ve got to give all glory and praise to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. This win was definitely for Chase and his family. He was here with us in spirit. ”
The victory launches the Trojans into the state quarterfinals for the fourth consecutive season. They’ll turn around and host No. 2 Buford next week in a Black Friday battle.
The first half was a defensive struggle and Carrollton clung to a 7-3 lead at the break. However, it took just one play for the Trojan offense to receive a jolt of energy in the third quarter from their spark plug, senior Mecose Todd.
On the first play from scrimmage in the second half, Todd took a handoff and broke through the middle of the field for a 58-yard run to set the Trojans up on the Warhawk 20.
“What a run. That’s what [Todd] brings to the table,” Calhoun said. “That’s why I love that he’s here. That run really got our kids excited, and sometimes you just need that spark.”
Todd would go on to finish the night with 126 rushing yards on 20 touches. Just four plays after his huge run, sophomore quarterback Myles Morris found senior Melvin Edwards in the back right corner of the end zone to make it 14-3.
The Trojan lead would remain unchanged until two minutes into the fourth quarter, when Todd took a direct snap and plunged into the end zone for a 1-yard score.
The Warhawks struck late, but the vaunted Trojan defense locked down and helped preserve the second-round victory.
“Our defense just plays so hard. They play so hard, and they play so physical, and they take so much pride in wanting to be a very good unit,” Calhoun said. “I can’t be more proud of them.”
The Trojans were plagued with offensive frustration in the first quarter. They botched a pair of field goal attempts and struggled to establish a rhythm that would allow them to produce points.
Veterans’ substantial defensive front stifled Carrollton early, but the Black and Gold finally broke through thanks to some misdirection in the second quarter.
Standing in the backfield inside shallow Warhawk territory, Morris faked a handoff and kept the ball around the left side of the line on a bootleg. The play-action fooled the defense, and his speed and elusiveness did the rest as he sprinted into the end zone untouched for a 33-yard score.
The ensuing extra-point attempt was good, giving Carrollton a 7-0 lead with 10:23 left in the first half.
Veterans later answered with a 54-yard field goal, trimming the Trojans’ advantage to four points at halftime.