Last week, Carroll Academy proved that sometimes the best strategy is simply to do nothing.
After the Rebels’ Week 4 opponent, Tri-County Academy, was forced into quarantine due to possible exposure to COVID-19, they essentially enjoyed a bye week while also receiving a boost in the rankings.
For the first time, Carroll (3-0) is sitting at No. 1 atop Mississippi Gridiron’s Class 3A poll ahead of the team’s homecoming game against visiting Newton County Academy (0-1).
Kickoff is 7 p.m. at Gordon Field with pregame festivities set to begin at 6 p.m.
“I don’t give credibility to a ranking in the middle of the season – the last one is the only one that matters,” head coach Bo Milton said. “But now we have a target on our back. We’re No. 1, we’re going to get everyone’s best game. So we have to prepare like that.”
The Rebels didn’t exactly take last Friday night off. Milton brought his team to scout Week 6 opponent Winona Christian (4-0), which eked out a 32-26 win against the same Benton Academy squad that Carroll just crushed, 42-7. Although it was productive, Carroll wasn’t satisfied watching the action from the stands.
“They were really just mad – they wanted to play ball,” Milton said. “They want to play football. I get it. I understand they’re 17 years old, we’re supposed to be playing a football game and they’re not getting to play.”
If the Rebels can channel that frustration into this Friday night, they figure to run all over the visiting Generals. A different ball carrier has reached the century mark rushing in each of Carroll’s first three blowout victories as the offense has averaged over 300 yards per game on the ground.
Mathis Beck, Hunter Brackin and Brennan Blaylock have deservedly earned praise for big performances, but the real unsung heroes have been the linemen opening and closing running lanes on both sides of the ball. The senior trio of Cooper Beck (6-foot-4, 285 pounds), Hunter Brower (6-foot-2, 225 pounds) and Christian McCluskey (6-foot, 200 pounds) has been particularly dominant.
The Rebels have allowed just 13 total points over the first three games. In their most recent victory over Benton on Sept. 4, they conceded just one first down and limited the Raiders to -6 yards rushing. Carroll appears primed to continue the trend against a Newton County offense that managed just six points in a season-opening loss to Wayne Academy.
The Generals were supposed to start their 2020 campaign the week prior against Oak Hill, but the game was canceled after four players and their head coach had to quarantine.
In the first round of last year’s MAIS 3A playoffs, Carroll blanked the Generals, 52-0. The Rebels were eventually eliminated by St. Joe in the semifinals, 20-18.
“I think Newton will play hard,” Milton said. “They’re a little down, we know that, but they’ve played hard.”
“Now that we’re ranked No. 1, we gotta practice like No. 1 because we’re going to get their best game,” the sixth-year head coach added. “We don’t need to be focused on all the homecoming stuff during the week, we need to be focused on the football game.”
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