The Carroll Eagles (2-3) went down fighting to the Enterprise Wildcats (4-1) by a score of 43-22 in the renewed Coffee County-Dale County rivalry on Sept. 25 at Wildcat Stadium.
While the score ended up being a bit more lopsided, Enterprise held a slim 20-14 lead going into the fourth quarter when fireworks erupted.
The Wildcats managed to tack on a 2-yard touchdown run from running back Mykel Johnson with 9:23 left in the fourth quarter. Johnson added a two-point conversion to extend the Wildcat lead to 28-14.
The Eagles, however, weren’t quite ready to pack it up, though. Running back Brandon Robinson scored his second touchdown of the night on an 80-yard touchdown run on the very next play. As Enterprise looked poised to block the PAT, the holder took off and threw a Hail Mary into the end-zone for a two-point conversion to cut the Wildcat lead to just 28-22 with 9:10 left in the game.
Enterprise head coach Rick Darlington’s bread and butter, the “single wing,” then took over as the Wildcats bled more clock and sophomore Sam Whitaker scored on a 14-yard touchdown run. Another two-point conversion extended the Enterprise lead to 36-22 with 6:21 remaining.
After forcing a three-and-out, Enterprise drove right back down the field and tight end Wyatt Darlington scored on a 10-yard touchdown run with 2:34 to cap off the 43-22 Wildcat win.
“It was tenuous,” Rick Darlington said. “It felt like we had to keep the ball away from them and wear them down and win the game that way. I’m glad we could to that.
“When you lose focus you give the other team the opportunity to win the game. Their kids battled and ran the ball on us.”
Enterprise was able to keep the ball for much of the fourth quarter and pound on a tired Eagle defense.
“The defense was on the field a lot,” Carroll coach Patrick Plott said. “The defense spent a lot of time on the field, especially in the fourth quarter. That wasn’t good for them and it kind of wore us out right there.”
That scenario was the opposite of the way the game started as Carroll drove down the field on a 14-play, 53-yard drive that took up nearly 11 minutes of the first quarter, converting three third downs in the process. The problem for the Eagles, however, is that drive didn’t produce points as Enterprise still held on to force a punt.
“That was disappointing to not produce any points there,” Plott said. “That was our goal coming into the game, to slow the pace of the game down and keep their offense off the field and in the first quarter we did a really good job of that.”
Enterprise proceeded to march down the field on a 6-play, 93-yard drive that ended in a 22-yard touchdown run from quarterback Quentin Hayes with 13 seconds remaining in the opening period to give Enterprise a 7-0 lead.
On Carroll’s next drive, Enterprise defensive back Kenyatta McNeese found himself in the backfield almost in time enough to take the snap from Carroll quarterback Keyshawn Cole and he managed to knock the ball lose and cover it up to give Enterprise a turnover.
The Wildcats then scored again on a 7-yard pass from Hayes to Wyatt Darlington with 7:51 left in the first half. That score was the youngest Darlington’s first varsity touchdown.
“That was pretty cool,” Rick Darlington said of seeing his youngest son’s first touchdown. “His brother, Zack, who played for me at Apopka and played at Nebraska, was here and got to watch it, too.
“That was cool for Wyatt. He’ll be a good player for us. He has a role right now and he’ll develop into a good player. He loves it and loves being a Wildcat and being a part of it.”
Just as it seemed Enterprise was resting complete control away from the Eagles, Robinson exploded for a 78-yard touchdown run with 6:40 left in the second quarter to cut the Wildcat lead to 14-7.
Enterprise marched right back down the field and senior athlete Josh McCray cashed in a 22-yard touchdown run that got called back on a holding penalty. The penalty and a dropped snap doomed the Enterprise drive and kicker Matt Sheahan missed a 31-yard field goal meaning the Wildcat lead remained 14-7 at halftime.
“I thought our guys really came out and competed well tonight,” Plott said. “Any time we get a chance to come out and compete that’s our goal, to come out and compete hard and try to give ourselves a chance to win the game and I think our guys did that tonight.”
Enterprise opened the second half with a 15-yard touchdown run from Hayes with 9:10 left in the third quarter. A mishandled snap on the PAT meant the Enterprise lead remained 20-7.
The Wildcats then forced a three-and-out on defense and marched right back down the field on offense before a fumble shifted momentum again.
As a Wildcat runner was fighting for extra yardage, the ball popped out and Carroll’s JKwon Cooper returned it 75 yards for a touchdown. The PAT cut Enterprise’s lead to 20-14 leading to the fourth quarter explosives.
Giving up long runs again haunted the Enterprise defense this week as Carroll totaled 210 yards rushing.
“We have to get better defending the run or we’re going to be in trouble in the region and we saw that last week,” Rick Darlington emphasized. “We have to get better at defending the run whatever it takes. I know (defensive coordinator) Coach (Jed Kennedy) is fired up about it and I know he is the man to get it right and I’m sure he will.”
On the bright side for the Wildcat defense, 158 of those 210 rushing yards came on just two plays. Enterprise held Carroll to 52 rushing yards on the other 27 rushing attempts for an average of 1.9 yards per carry. In total Carroll netted 235 yards of offense, while Enterprise rolled up 466 yards with 420 of those coming on the ground.
Enterprise had nine different Wildcats carry the ball in the win over Carroll with Johnson’s 103 yards and one touchdown on just seven rushing attempts leading the way. Hayes also added 101 yards and two touchdowns on 13 carries along with 46 yards and another touchdown on 7-of-9 passing.
Sophomore wide receiver/quarterback Aiden White also got a chance to take his first snaps at quarterback this season as he rushed three times for 11 yards and also caught one pass for three yards.
McCray rushed for 68 yards on eight carries before leaving the game late in the third quarter after taking a big hit on the sidelines. McCray also caught one pass for 12 yards.
Whitaker added 64 yards and a touchdown on just three carries. Freshman fullback Keion Dunlap carried the ball six times for 28 yards.
Wyatt Darlington caught two passes for 14 yards and a touchdown, while also rushing for a 10-yard score. Jared Smith added two catches for 14 yards and one rushing attempt for 13 yards.
Carroll was led by Robinson with 212 yards and two touchdowns on 18 carries. Three other Eagle runners combined for (-2) yards rushing on 11 attempts.