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HILLSVILLE –– Carroll County could quite conceivably be sporting a 3-1 record right now. Martinsville has as much athletic ability as any team in this end of the state.
Call it the game of the week among teams with a combined 1-7 record.
For a myriad of reasons, the Cavaliers (0-4) and the Bulldogs (1-3) just haven’t gotten it done in the win column so far this year, but one of the two will add a W tonight when they meet for a nondistrict game at Dan Green Stadium.
The contest will mark the first regular season meeting between the two schools, which have played each other twice previously in the Region IV playoffs, both of them Martinsville wins.
The Bulldogs have all the pieces in place to be a tremendous team but have not yet been able to put those pieces together, opening the season at 1-3 with losses to Brookville (5-0), Cave Spring (4-1) and AAA Halifax County.
“They’ve played a tough schedule,” Carroll County coach Tom Hale said Monday. “But when we compare them to Christiansburg or Richlands, they have every bit as much talent and probably more speed. Their linemen, their skill people, just great size and speed.”
Turnovers and a have-at-it approach to playing defense have resulted in Martinsville’s poor start, but the Bulldogs look similar to the excellent Bassett teams of a few years ago. Quarterback Ishmael Hairston has rushed for nearly 130 yards per game, including a 203-yard effort in a win over Liberty. Runningback Freddie Williams had 173 in the Liberty game and is gaining close to 80 per night.
“They do everything from the spread and they run a lot of option,” Hale said.
The problem that creates for the Cavaliers is that in adequately covering the dive, the quarterback and the pitch, Carroll will be spread thin at all three points of attack.
“We’ll have people where they’re supposed to be, but the hard part is making the play,” Hale said. “We’re going to have people in one-on-one situations in space, and that’s not what we do well.”
Martinsville is extremely aggressive on defense, which fits well with Carroll’s traps and misdirection.
The Cavaliers’ schedule has been nearly as daunting as has Martinsville’s and just as fruitless. Friday’s 26-19 loss to Grayson County marked the third game in which the Cavaliers were either tied or down a point during the fourth quarter.
“We couldn’t get a break Friday,” Hale said. “Officials call what they see and there were a couple of plays that were very close.”
The first play of the night resulted in an iffy pass interference penalty that wiped out a Carroll interception at midfield, and two plays later Grayson County scored on a 66-yard run. Late in the first half, a gamble on fourth down in their own territory came up short for the Cavaliers and Grayson used a long pass play to set up a late touchdown, erasing a seven-point Carroll lead just before the half.
“It’s frustrating,” Hale admitted. “The hard thing is convincing these kids that we’ve been in every game but one in the fourth quarter. We haven’t lost to anybody that isn’t a credible football team. We’ve got to keep our heads up, because this group is going to win some football games.”
Carroll enjoyed its most productive night of the season in the loss.
“It seems we’re right on the verge,” Hale said. “I thought we played a strong game offensively. Defensively we were just a couple of inches away a couple of times stopping the fullback on that dive.”
Carroll County (0-4) at Martinsville (1-3)
Dan Green Stadium
Carroll County lost to Grayson County 26-19
Martinsville lost to Halifax County 17-10
2006–Martinsville won 32-17 (region playoffs)
Last Carroll County win
Carroll is 0-2 in the series
None to date
# Region IV playoffs
Martinsville leads 2-0
Carroll County Martinsville
L to Bassett 14-7 8/26 L to Brookville 35-18
L to Mt. Airy NC 21-6 9/2 L to Cave Spring 50-29
L to C’burg 52-13 9/9 Open
Open 9/16 D Liberty 44-34
L to Grayson Co. 26-19 9/23 L to Halifax Co. 17-10
at Martinsville 9/30 Carroll County
at Abingdon 10/7 Heritage
Richlands 10/14 Patrick County
Tazewell 10/21 at Bassett
at Marion 10/28 Magna Vista
at Patrick County 11/4 at Tunstall