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HILLSVILLE –– William Byrd has got it all wrong.
When a team loses 17 starters, most of them three-year starters, it isn’t supposed to be competitive. The Terriers, gutted last year by graduation, weren’t supposed to open the year 2-0. They weren’t supposed to hang within three points of Salem, and they sure as heck weren’t supposed to score 34 points and rack up more than 300 rushing yards against the No. 1 Group AA team in the state, Brookville, as they did in last week’s 49-34 loss to the Bees.
“My goodness, I didn’t think they would be as good as they are,” said Carroll County coach Tom Hale, whose Cavaliers host William Byrd in a nondistrict game tonight at Tommy Thompson Field. “Between them and Bassett, one of them may be the best football team on our schedule. They’re that good. They don’t have the passing attack that Bassett has, but they’re very well-coached, and they’ve got speed.”
Most of the speed belongs to Derrick Palmer, a 5-foot-10, 160-pound junior. Opening the season at tailback, Palmer was inserted at quarterback when the starter, John Conner, suffered a knee injury in the Terrier’s second game. Play-calling has never been easier for Byrd coach Jeff Highfill.
“They went shotgun, and now they run a quarterback sweep right, quarterback sweep left with two tight ends and a good offensive line,” Hale said. “He just needs a crease. He’s that fast. They’ll throw four or five times a game, but they’re going to run it. We know what we’ve got to stop.”
Palmer hasn’t been stopped much through the first four games, averaging 29 carries and 189 yards per game. The good thing for Hale is that the Terriers’ strength seems to match the Cavaliers’ strength.
“We match up with them on the perimeter pretty well, where they like to run,” Hale said. “I think our two defensive ends against their two tight ends is going to be a battle.”
Carroll’s Drew McCraw, a 6-1, 258-pound senior, will match up against 6-1, 220-pound Jeremy Kinkead, while the Cavaliers’ Cody Mabe, at 6-2, 170, will butt heads with 6-1, 205-pound Frank Miller on the other end.
“We feel like right there will make the difference, and we can make them do other things that they don’t like to do,” Hale said.
Defensively, William Byrd is led by Tyler Snow, a 6-3, 220-pound senior headed to James Madison. Snow recorded 71 solo tackles in earning all-state honors as a junior. Though it didn’t quite show on the scoreboard, Carroll County had success offensively against the Terriers in last year’s 49-14 loss.
“Last year we moved the ball on them,” Hale said. “We had 250 yards of offense on them last year, but we would make mistakes or they would tighten up and make a stop, but we feel like we can move the ball. We think we’ve got a good plan to take advantage of some things that they like to do.”
Carroll County also has the advantage of playing at home for the first time since opening night, as well as coming to work Monday following a win for the first time this season.
“The atmosphere this week has been a little more upbeat,” Hale said on Wednesday. “We haven’t been home in about a month, and yesterday was one of the best practices I can ever remember us having. They’re looking forward to this because they knew we’re going to face a good football team and we’ve faced good football teams all year it seems like. But it’s a challenge and we feel like if we go out and do everything right and get a break or two, that we can win it.”