Professional wrestler Ric Flair often proclaimed “To be the man, you have to beat the man.”
Carroll Academy got that chance Friday against two-time defending state champion Greenville St. Joseph.
The Rebels might not have come away with a win as the Irish claimed the 20-18 decision, but they certainly gained a matter of respect in the process.
Carroll finishes the season with a 10-3 record while St. Joseph improves to 12-0 and will face Indianola Academy in Friday’s Class 3A title game at Jackson Academy.
For head coach Bo Milton, it was a tough loss to swallow as they had the defending champions on the ropes.
“It was two good teams going at it,” Milton said. “A two-point conversion is the difference in that game and it seemed to be that way for us all year. When you play good teams, you have to take care of every opportunity that you get. I will tell anyone, I wouldn’t trade our kids for anybody, not the Division I players or anybody.”
Carroll showed that they were capable of standing toe to toe with the best teams in the state.
“Two of the three losses are to teams that will be playing for state championships and the other was to Winona who lost in the semifinals,” Milton said. “Those three teams beat us by a combined six points. I think we had a really, really good football team. We just came up a little short and that’s football.”
The Rebels got the ball to start the game and immediately found the end zone. The Rebels went 42 yards in seven plays as Morgan Mims hit Logan Taylor on a 30-yard pass play. The try for two failed and Carroll led 6-0 early in the first quarter.
The Rebels added another score in the first quarter as they went 65 yards in six plays. After Mims ripped off a 42-yard run, John Marc O’Cain scored on an 11-yard run. The try for two failed and Carroll led 12-0.
“I thought we were doing everything we had planned to do in the first half,” Milton said. “We ran the ball and defensively, we were playing lights out. We held one of the most explosive teams in the state two touchdowns. It’s just one of those things, it came down to a couple of plays that made the difference.”
The game took a turn for Carroll when they recovered a fumbled kickoff at the St. Joe 36. The Rebels got to the St. Joe 1 but an interception killed the threat.
St. Joe then went 12 plays before turning the ball over on the Carroll 6. Two plays later, the Rebels fumbled and Mississippi State commit Dillon Johnson scooped it up and scored. The try for two failed and Carroll led 12-8.
“I thought that was a huge play in the game,” Milton said. “When we didn’t come away with a touchdown and threw an interception, that was huge. We had them reeling at that point.”
The Rebels bounced back as they went 80 yards in 10 plays as Logan Taylor hit Morgan Mims on a 38-yard touchdown pass on the last play of the first half. The try for two failed and Carroll led 18-8 at the half.
St. Joseph got the ball to start the second half and went 58 yards in six plays as they scored on a 17-yard touchdown pass. The try for two failed and Carroll led 18-14.
Carroll then put together a seven-play drive and turned the ball over on downs at midfield and then went 11 plays and turned the ball over at the St. Joseph 17 yard line.