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HILLSVILLE –– It is, for all intents and purposes, a scrimmage. A final chance to see what still could use some work before the real games start – things like ball security inside the red zone, and prevent pass coverage in the final minute.
And it was a good thing that kinks in those aspects of the game haven’t been completely ironed out. Otherwise a huge crowd would have been robbed of a thrilling finish in Carroll County’s 21-19 benefit game win Friday over Galax at Tommy Thompson Field.
Carroll County took the lead with an 80-yard fumble return and then preserved the advantage with a goal line stand, but Galax nearly pulled off a miracle with a last-minute Hail Mary before the Cavaliers finally held on for the win.
Though Carroll County scored on its second offensive series, the night couldn’t have started much worse for the Cavaliers, who lost their lone returning lineman in the first quarter. Hunter Grubb, a 6-foot-5, 270-pound tackle drawing interest from several college programs, suffered what was believed to be ligament damage to his right knee. He emerged from the Caves’ locker room after halftime in workout gear.
“We don’t have much depth, and with Hunter going down early, we had kids out there who just aren’t ready to play yet,” said Carroll County coach Tom Hale. “[Trainers] said they think maybe he tore his ACL, but you don’t know for sure until you get the MRI. Gosh, there’s a kid, his parents put him in state-of-the-art knee braces, and the first daggone game…”
Galax was leading 13-7 in the third quarter and was driving for what could have been a clinching touchdown when, from the Cavalier 9-yard line, Tide quarterback Terrance Mazon was chased down in the backfield by linebackers Logan Hodges and Jordan Lamb. The ball popped loose and was scooped up by Aaron Willard, who rambled 80 yards for a touchdown that put Carroll on top 14-13 after Ulises Moreno’s PAT.
“That really gave us momentum,” Hale said. “If they score right there it’s a whole different ballgame. That was definitely the turning point of the game.”
A dropped pass at the Cavalier 10-yard line ended Galax’s next drive on downs, and Carroll County marched 75 yards in 12 plays, taking a 21-13 lead when Moreno scored on a physical 6-yard run, then added the extra point.
“Too many mistakes,” said Mark Dixon following his debut as the Maroon Tide’s coach. “You can’t win that way. There are phases of the game that we haven’t paid a lot of attention to, but then there are other areas of the game that I hope people can see we are making strides. We’re getting there.”
Galax drove to a first-and-goal situation at the Cavalier 4, but Mazon was stopped at the 1 on fourth down with 2:59 to play, apparently ending any Galax comeback hopes.
Carroll County got out of the shadow of its own goal post and was able to kill two minutes before punting to the Tide at the Carroll 46 with just 56 ticks left. Galax needed but one play to cover the distance as Jerad Brown was able to get behind the Cavalier defense and haul in a 46-yard Mazon pass for a touchdown with 43 seconds to play, trimming the lead to two points.
Hoping to send the game into overtime, Galax’s two-point conversion fizzled with a fumbled snap.
“The main things now are that these guys played their hearts out, and where do we go from here?” Dixon said. “Do we go in the tank, or do we look at this as a positive?”
“It was two teams going after it tonight,” Hale said. “My hat is off to Galax. We made plays when we had to with that goal line stand and picking up that fumble.”
Blake Bowman’s 27-yard punt return to the Galax 33 set up the Cavaliers’ initial score, a 3-yard Logan Hodges run seven plays later for a 7-0 lead midway through the first quarter.
Galax answered with a 12-play, 65-yard drive. Frankie Shalabi and Jacob Fisher both made fourth-down catches to sustain the march, which ended with Mazon’s 5-yard run. Matthew Wright’s PAT knotted the score at 7-7 late in the first period.
A spectacular 33-yard interception return by Brown sparked the go-ahead drive for Galax. Deion George made a 25-yard catch to the 19 on third-and-18, and Mazon scored from the 14 four plays later to put the Tide in front 13-7 following the missed PAT.
Both coaches saw plenty of work to be done before each starts the regular season this Friday.
The Maroon Tide outgained the Cavaliers 324-222 in total offense and churned out 19 first downs to Carroll’s nine. Mazon completed nine passes to five different receivers on 21 attempts for 154 yards. Jordan Vaughan led the Galax ground attack with 123 yards on 20 carries.
“We’ve got to get a whole lot better,” said Hale. “We play a real tough schedule, and we’ve got to get a whole lot better.”
Carroll County rushed 42 times for 196 yards, led by fullback Jacob Mollet with 68 yards on 10 attempts. Moreno added 54 yards on 10 carries.
“My frustration is with us as a staff,” Dixon said. “We had too many turnovers, penalties, things you can’t do and expect to win. They played their hearts out and did what we asked, but somewhere we have got to find discipline. If we don’t do that, it’s going to be a long year.”
Carroll Co. 21, Galax 19
Galax...................7 6 0 6––19
Carroll County......7 0 7 7––21
CC – Hodges 3 run (Moreno kick) 5:31
G – Mazon 5 run (Wright kick) 1:38
G – Mazon 14 run (kick failed) 1:38
CC – Willard 80 fumble return (Moreno kick) 5:31
CC – Moreno 6 run (Moreno kick) 8:43
G – J.Brown 46 pass from Mazon (run failed) 0:43
First downs 19 9
Rushes-yards 34-170 42-196
Yards passing 154 26
Comp-Att-Int 9-22-0 1-5-1
Return yards 83 178
Punts-average 3-41.3 3-33.3
Fumbles-lost 2-1 0-0
Penalties-yards 6-35 4-16
RUSHING—Galax, Vaughan 20-123, J.Brown 3-30, Mazon 9-11, Shalabi 1-4, team 1-2. Carroll County, Mollet 10-68, Moreno 10-54, Bowman 9-44, Hodges 5-26, Ayers 7-4, Alley 1-0.
PASSING–Galax, Mazon 9-21-0-154, Pack 0-1-0-0. Carroll County, Bowman 1-5-1-26.
RECEIVING–Galax, George 5-83, J.Brown 1-46, Fisher 1-15, Shalabi 1-9, Vaughan 1-1.