By Steve Williams
South-Doyle couldn’t have gotten off to a better start in its Region 2-5A game at Carter Friday night, while the Hornets couldn’t have had a worse takeoff.
In the opening five minutes of action, the Cherokees had put two touchdowns on the scoreboard, while Carter had coughed up two fumbles.
For a brief moment the trend appeared to continue when a South-Doyle player returned another Carter fumble to the end zone. But game officials huddled and ruled the play had been an incomplete pass, nullifying the TD.
The complexion of the contest instantly changed.
Carter senior running back Isaac Scarbrough sprinted 56 yards down the right sideline on the very next play for a touchdown, sparking the Hornets to a 28-21 homecoming victory in the Battle of John Sevier Highway.
Carter strung together four consecutive touchdowns, while its defense came alive and shut down a South-Doyle offense with big-play potential.
“We had a rocky start,” said Carter Head Coach Derek Witt. “It looked grim there early in the game. We just settled down and started playing football.”
When things started clicking, Witt saw his defensive unit get aggressive and liked it.
“That’s what we were preaching before the start of the season,” said Witt. “We wanted to our defense to be exciting to watch. That’s what they got to tonight, so we turned that corner.”
Said South-Doyle Head Coach Clark Duncan: “They got the momentum swinging their way.”
The Cherokees had 10 position starters out with injuries in last week’s loss to Sevier County, but they got their quarterback and a linebacker back for the Carter game.
“It’s been one of those seasons we’ve had to struggle with injuries,” said Duncan. “You just have to overcome that and keep battling.”
The much needed win lifted Carter to 2-1 in region play and 2-4 overall, while South-Doyle dropped to 1-2 in the region and 1-5 overall.
The Cherokees’ two early touchdowns came on passes of 41 and 12 yards from sophomore QB Mason Brang to junior Ton’quez Ball, with a fumble recovery by Quantre’ Miles at the Carter 14 in between.
Senior running back TaMichael Battle cashed in Kenneth Cox’s fumble recovery with a 1-yard run off right tackle on the final play of the first quarter to tie the score at 14-all.
Battle added a 5-yard TD run up the middle to cap a 41-yard drive that gave the Hornets a 21-14 lead with 3:28 to go in the first half. Carter had gotten the ball when a fourth down snap by the Cherokees hit an up-back and Garrett Massey recovered the loose ball.
Midway through the third quarter, Carter quarterback Kobe Wilson broke loose up the middle for a 57-yard gain to the S-D 13. Three plays later, Scarbrough scored from the 10 to widen the lead to 28-14.
A 41-yard pass over the middle – Brang to wide receiver Seandre Scott – gave the Cherokees a first down at the Carter 4 and new life in the final quarter. Brang tallied on a 1-yard keeper and Austin Morse added the PAT to slice the deficit to seven with 8:56 left.
The running of sophomore Nicholas Davidson and Battle and the blocking of the offensive line resulted in a 67-yard march that took almost seven minutes off the clock and forced South-Doyle to use up its timeouts.
When Parker McNew’s 29-yard field goal attempt missed wide left, the Cherokees had one last chance. Their two-minute offense got one first down, but Scarbrough broke up a fourth-and-three attempt at the 39 to all but end the game.
The Hornets were led on defense by senior Caleb Wolfe, who had the Hit of the Night and at least two tackles for loss. Scarbrough, Battle, Adam Hurd and Clarence Smith also made key plays.
Carter will travel to Fulton this Friday, while South-Doyle plays at Seymour.