CARROLLTON — When it rains, it pours.
And that certainly became the rallying cry for the Carrollton High School football team on Friday night.
Because in a matter of a minute, the fourth-ranked Trojans turned a competitive contest into a rout, steam-rolling Riverdale in a 50-14 decision at Grisham Stadium.
With the Raiders (2-1) trailing 13-7 and back in possession following a 99-yard march on the ensuing possession, the Carrollton defense made back-to-back, game-changing plays that opened the floodgates — figuratively and literally — to a dominating performance the rest of the way.
The first came on a 52-yard scoop-and-score when Trojan linebacker Reid Dedman sacked Raider signal-caller Joseph Cambridge and Charlie Lanier cleanly fielded the one-hopper off the turf and raced down the home sidelines for the defensive touchdown at the 8:34 mark of the second quarter.
On the second play of the next Riverdale drive, Cambridge’s pass attempt was batted into the air at the line of scrimmage and Trojan defensive lineman Josh Walker pulled down the interception and rumbled to the six-yard line, setting up the third of four rushing touchdowns by freshman sensation Mecose Todd with 7:28 remaining in the half.
And just like that it was 27-7 and the Black and Gold was in complete control.
For first-year Carrollton head coach Sean Calhoun, there was a lot of emotion leading up to kickoff Friday night. Not just because it was his first true home game as the Trojan head man, but also due to a pair of tragedies that struck Carroll County this week, along with the Carrollton football program continuing to pray for one of its own in Keegan Hill.
“First and foremost, I want to thank my Lord and savior Jesus Christ for giving all of us the opportunity to be here [Friday]. The last couple of days, this community has been hurting a little bit with the two young people that passed away and Keegan Hill, who’s a former Trojan, being in the hospital. We put a special sticker on our helmet for him. This win was for him and his family,” Calhoun said.
Upon turning to the action on the field, for the second time on the young season, the Trojan defense delivered the major momentum swing to put Carrollton in the driver’s seat.
“The defense is setting up the offense in some good situations. The closer you start to the goal-line, the more percentage we’ve got to score,” Calhoun said. “Turnovers can change the game. Big time.”
Following the fourth Carrollton score, weather became a major factor, as a steady downpour showered the turf for the rest of the evening. Calhoun was pleased with how his team handled the elements.
“We’re going to carry enough footballs to where it don’t matter the weather. We preach that you can only worry about what you can control, and we can’t control that. So just don’t worry about it,” Calhoun said.
The first weather repercussions came on the next Riverdale drive, where a low snap on a punt resulted in the Trojans (2-0) taking over at the Raider 33. Four plays later, Carrollton tailback Jaylan Thomas scored on an 11-yard touchdown run with 4:44 to go for the 33-7 halftime tally.
The Carrollton defense contained the big-play attack of Cambridge, who has committed to Jacksonville State, other than the one long drive engineered by the talented Raider quarterback.
For the night, Cambridge rushed for 60 yards on 14 carries with one touchdown, while completing 11-of-29 pass attempts for 146 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions.
In the second half, Carrollton proceeded to put the game away, using a 21-yard Sam Barge field goal, a four-yard Todd touchdown run following a Niesheem Thomas interception and a four-yard touchdown run by Xavier Moreland early in the fourth quarter.
Riverdale closed out the scoring with 47 seconds left in the game on a seven-yard John Foster reception from Cambridge.
The 1-2 punch of Thomas and Todd was especially strong Friday night, as Thomas did the bulk of his work between the 20s, finishing with a game-high 133 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries, while Todd scored four touchdowns on eight bruising rushes for 32 yards.
One of the most memorable touchdowns of the evening came on Todd’s seven-yard score following the Walker interception where he hauled half the Raider defense on his back into the end zone.
“They’re good and they’re very unselfish,” Calhoun said. “They’re very unselfish, which I love. They’re two good backs that complement each other. Once we get our passing game going a little bit more, we’ll be moving in the right direction.”
So now following the season opener, an off week and Friday night’s victory, Carrollton has its final open week of the regular season before hosting East Paulding in the Region 7-AAAAA opener on Sept. 16.
“Our eyes are focused now on East Paulding. A quality, physical opponent. Very well-coached. I haven’t really watched any film on them yet because we were focused on Riverdale,” Calhoun said. “We’re going to enjoy this one, enjoy this weekend and get back to work.”