WINONA – Just days from burying their friend, Jacob Randall, the Carroll Academy Rebels and the Winona Christian School Stars came together not just for their annual rivalry game, but as a community supporting one another in grief.
Randall, a much-loved senior at Carroll Academy and a member of the Rebels football team, was killed October 9 in a one-car accident on Highway 17. He was laid to rest Wednesday.
Two days later, the Carroll Academy Rebels traveled to Winona Christian for a district match. With heavy hearts, the Rebels were led onto the field by Andrew Montgomery who carried a flag bearing Randall’s photograph. His younger brother, Zachary, a sixth grader, wore his brother’s number five jersey.
Carroll Academy Head Coach Bo Milton said it was tough to play a football game after losing their friend and teammate.
“To me, this was more than just about a win,” Milton said. “It was focused on the kids, and them getting through. They just played their hearts out.”
Graham commended Milton and his assistant coaches for preparing the Rebels for the game as they continue to grieve for their friend.
“Once the game started, I think it was kind of a relief for them,” Graham said. “It was a difficult week on everyone, here too, because there are so many of our kids who knew and were friends with [Randall], and our hearts went out to [the Rebels].”
Throughout the night, the Rebels and the Stars were neck-and-neck, however, in the end, the Stars came out on top with a score of 20-14.
“I was very, very proud of our kids,” Milton said. “They probably had the worst week of the lives, and they came out and played a hard fought ballgame.”
Stars Head Coach Junior Graham said both teams fought to the very end.
“To sum it up, two teams met and really competed hard for four quarters,” Graham said. “Two teams with great respect for each other. There was great sportsmanship throughout the game.”
The Rebels struck early as Colby Holly rushed 65-yards for a touchdown on the first play of the game. The two-point conversion failed.
On the next drive, Winona Christian answered by marching 83 yards down the field for the six-yard touchdown run by Blake Marlow. The ensuing two-point conversion failed.
The score was tied 6-6 at the half.
The Stars had the ball after the half, and on the first drive in the third quarter, the Stars executed a 69-yard drive that concluded with Holland Ingram scoring from 17-yards out. The two-point conversion was successful with a run from quarterback Latham Hill, in for starter Shaw Ferguson.
The Rebels answered quickly with a 67-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Morgan Mims to Noah Collier. The two-point conversion was good when Mims connected with Gavin Wiltshire.
With seven minutes left in the ballgame, a Stars fumble gave the Rebels a chance to go for the win, but after driving the ball down to the Stars 40 yard line, an interception by Stars Austin Huggins gave Winona Christian the ball back on the Stars one yard line.
Huggins interception led to the 99-yard drive that concluded with an 18-yard touchdown run from Holland Ingram that put the Stars ahead in the end.
Throughout the night, the Rebels were met with friendship and well-wishes from the Stars team and fans, with Winona Christian School honoring the Rebels’ fallen teammate with a balloon release at halftime. Following the game, both teams met in the center of the field for prayer.
“We really appreciate that,” Milton said. “This is a good rivalry, but the kids are friends and they came together more than just for a ballgame at that point.”
Friday night, the Rebels will travel to Central Holmes Christian Academy in Lexington for another district matchup.
Central Holmes, also 5-4 on the season, has had a season very similar to the Rebels, Milton said.
For the Stars, they will travel to Louisville to take on Winston Academy.
According to Milton, every team from the AA-1 district should make the post season.
“Right now, we are seeded number 14,” Milton said. “I think everyone in our district is in the playoffs.