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RICHLANDS –– Carroll County was finally able to get past the early stages of a district game without finding itself in an early hole, but the Cavaliers weren’t able to make the strong start hold up as Richlands clinched the Southwest District championship with a 23-7 win Friday at Ernie Hicks Stadium.
Carroll County (4-5 overall, 2-3 district) had given up touchdowns in the first two minutes of all four of its perevious league games, but it was the Cavaliers who did the damage early, taking the opening kickoff and marching 56 yards in five plays to draw first blood.
Two Richlands encroachment penalties and a 29-yard Dillon Caviness run set the Cavaliers up with a first-and-goal at the Blue Tornado 6-yard line, and Cody Mabe went behind the left side of the Carroll offensive line to score from 5 yards out just 3:14 into the game. Mason King’s PAT had the Cavaliers leading 7-0.
“We felt like we could run it right at them and we were able to do that,” Carroll County coach Tom Hale said. “We came right down the field, bang bang bang. They made a couple of mistakes jumping offsides, and we kept right on moving.”
But as was the case in last year’s meeting, Richlands (6-3, 5-0) overcame an early Cavalier score to take a 13-6 lead. Carroll County stopped the Tornado on downs at the Carroll 24 but fumbled four plays later at its own 32. Though Richlands incurred a 15-yard personal foul penalty to the 47 – the first of five Richlands personal fouls on the night – the Tornado was able to turn the takeaway into points. A second personal foul had Richlands in a second-and-30 situation at its own 47 but Joel Elswick connected with Blayke Wilson on a 38-yard gain to the 15. Elswick kept around the right side, picked up a good block from wideout Cody Bartkoski on the corner and scored with 56 seconds left in the quarter. Reece Strong’s PAT knotted the game at 7 apiece.
“Too many mistakes,” said Hale. “The kids play hard but we tend to do things that shoot us in the foot. I give Richlands credit. They’ve got a good football team, but I felt like if we’d had been a little more consistent things could have been different.”
Carroll County had a long run nullified by a motion penalty as well as committing three fumbles (losing one) and losing a muffed punt.
After forcing a Cavalier punt, Richlands needed but two plays to take the lead. A 13-yard Elswick run was followed by a 63-yard pitch and catch for a touchdown. From his own 37, Elswick fired to Christian Hearl, who outjumped a Cavalier defender to make the catch at the Carroll 40 and then raced the rest of the way untouched for the score. Though the PAT was botched, Richlands was up for good, 13-7.
Carroll County drove as far as the Richlands 27 before stalling with 1:17 left in the half, then relied on a Zack Surratt interception near the Cavalier goal line to prevent a late Richlands score.
The Tornado used a 37-yard Brad Strong kick return to the 50 to threaten early in the second half. Working into a first-and-goal from the Carroll 6, Richlands was stuffed on three straight running plays before settling for a 20-yard Reece Strong field goal.
The Tornado capped the scoring on its next series, racing 81 yards in five plays. Elswick picked up 36 yards to the Cavalier 44 and Hearl scored on a toss sweep from the 34 three plays later. Reece Strong’s kick was true for the final 23-7 margin.
Richlands finished with 389 yards of total offense despite the wet conditions. Elswick carried 13 times for 88 yards and completed 7-of-17 passes for another 164 yards. Hearl had four catches for 119 yards and added 49 yards on four rushes. Taylor Sizemore had 71 yards on five carries.
Carroll County finished with 154 yards of offense, led by Caviness’ 70 yards on eight rushes.
Carroll County will close out its season Friday at home against Graham.
Richlands 23, Carroll Co. 7
Carroll County 7 0 0 0–– 7
Richlands 7 6 10 0––23
CC–Mabe 5 run (King kick) 8:46
Rich–Elswick 15 run (R.Strong kick) 0:56
Rich–C.Hearl 63 pass from Elswick (run failed) 8:14
Rich–R.Strong 20 FG, 7:30
Rich–C.Hearl 34 run (R.Strong kick) 1:46
First downs 10 14
Rushes-yards 42-132 34-225
Yards passing 22 164
Comp-Att-Int 1-5-1 7-18-1
Return yards 144 72
Punts-average 4-30.3 2-31.0
Fumbles-lost 3-1 2-0
Penalties-yards 4-26 7-75
Rushing–Carroll County, Caviness 8-70, Mabe 14-30, Surratt 10-27, Huff 5-20, Nester 5-(-15). Richlands, Elswick 13-88, Sizemore 5-71, C.Hearl 4-49, E.Hearl 8-14, B.Strong 2-2, R.Strong 2-1.
Passing–Carroll County, Nester 1-2-0-22, Testerman 0-1-0-0, Mabe 0-2-1-0. Richlands, Elswick 7-17-1-164, R.Strong 0-1-0-0.
Receiving–Carroll County, Caviness 1-22. Richlands, C.Hearl 4-119, Wilson 1-38, B.Strong 1-7.