Carroll Academy’s shot at a perfect season and state championship slipped away from the Rebels on Friday night.
Greenville Christian used an explosive offense and 454 yards of offense from quarterback Deandre Smith to take a 52-20 win over the Rebels on Friday night and capture the Class AAA state championship at Jackson Academy.
With the loss, the Rebels end the season with an 11-1 record while Greenville Christian finishes with 11 straight wins at 11-1.
Despite the final, Milton realizes how special the season was.
“We had a great season,” Milton said. “It hurts right now. But as we move away from this game, the more our kids will realize what a special season it was. It’s like going to Disney. At the end, you are sick of it and just ready to get away, but the longer you are away from it, the more you realize how special it was. I think our kid will realize how special it was. It was a magical year, it just didn’t end the way we wanted it to.”
The Saints got the ball to open the game. After converting a big third down, the Saints moved down the field at a lightning pace with plays of 25 and 24 yards. Smith then finished off the drive with a 2-yard run with 10:04 left in the first quarter. Smith hit Kerrick Ross on the two-point conversion and the Saints led 8-0.
The Rebels responded by the hard running of Hunter Brackin and Mathis Beck. After a big 23-yard gainer by Brackin, Beck scored on an 18-yard run with 7:35 left in the first quarter. The PAT failed and Greenville led 8-6.
The Saints responded with a six-play, 73-yard drive as Smith scored on a 15-yard drive with 6:19 left in the first quarter. Smith also ran in the two-point conversion and Greenville led 16-6.
The Rebels then turned the ball over on a fumbler after a video review. The Saints then went 56 yards in six plays as Marlon Palmer scored on a 10-yard run with 4:31 left in the first quarter. The try for two failed and Greenville led 22-6, a score that remained through the end of the first quarter.
After stopping Greenville Christian at midfield, the Rebels drove the ball to the Saints 14 before turning the ball over on downs.
“We moved the ball on them and I knew we were going to be able to run the football but we have to finish drives,” Milton said. “We left two scoring chances out there that might have changed the game.”
The Saints then went 86 yards in 10 plays as Smith hit Daishun Scott on a 9-yard touchdown pass with 5:56 left in the second quarter. Palmer ran in the two-point conversion and Greenville Christian led 30-6.
The Rebels responded with a nine-play, 64-yard drive, thanks to a couple of big runs from Beck. Brackin scored on a 5-yard run with 1:16 left in the first half. The try for two failed and Carroll cut the lead to 30-12.
But just when it seemed the Rebels had some momentum, the Saints answered as Ross returned the ensuing kick 92 yards for a touchdown, breaking several tackles along the way. The two-point conversion was good and Greenville Christian led 38-12 at the half.
“I thought there were about three plays that changed the game in the first half,” Milton said. “There was the fumble and they scored on back to back drives. There was us not scoring to cut the score and then there was the kickoff return. I’m not saying playing those different would have changed the outcome of the game but they changed the direction of the game. I give Greenville Christian credit, they have a great football team and their quarterback is a great football player.”
The Rebels got the ball to open the second half and put together a time-consuming 14-play drive but eventually turned the ball over on downs at the Greenville 19.
The Saints wasted little time going down the field. After a 32-yard gainer by Smith, the junior quarterback hit Ross on a 40-yard touchdown pass. The two-point attempt was good and the Saints led 46-12 with 2:47 left in the third.
After forcing Carroll to punt, the Saints put the nail in the Rebels’ coffin as Smith scored on a 51-yard touchdown run on the last play of the third quarter. The PAT failed and the Saints led 52-12 to start a running clock in the second half.
Carroll added one more score in the fourth quarter as Brennan Blaylock hit Noah Beck on a 26-yard touchdown pass with 5:58 left in the game. Lofton Holley ran in the two-point conversion for the final of 52-20.
“Our kids played hard and never quit,” Milton said. “We just didn’t catch any breaks at the right time it seemed like. I hate that it ended like that but I can’t be more proud of how our kids played.”
Smith finished with 480 yards of offense as Smith was 16-of-29 passing for 271 yards. The Saints had 209 yards rushing as Smith had 183 yards on 14 carries with three TDs. Ross had 102 yards receiving on five catches and more than 200 yards in return yardage.
Carroll had 286 yards of total offense with 244 rushing and 42 passing. Brackin had 96 yards rushing on 18 carries while Mathis Beck had 89 yards rushing on 12 carries. Holly had 59 yards on seven carries. Noah Beck had two catches for 27 yards.
Noah Beck and Braxton York each had five tackles while Holly had four tackles and two pass breakups. Hunter Grantham and Drew Haddon each had three tackles apiece.