Lexington running back Slade Carroll knew his team was going to get White Knoll’s best effort in the first round of the Class 4A, Division I playoffs Friday night at the Wolf Den.
The Wildcats defeated their rivals by 17 in the final regular-season game last week, and the old adage says it’s tough to beat a good team twice in a week.
Clichés aside, Carroll ran for 193 yards and three touchdowns to propel Lexington to a 35-21 win against the Timberwolves.
Lexington (7-5) will be on the road next Friday against Hillcrest in the second round.
“We knew it was going to be a tough game,” Carroll said. “Beating that team like we did last week, we knew they were going to come back stronger than ever. We knew they didn’t want to lose to us twice, so we stepped it up in practice and played a complete game from the first quarter to the fourth.”
Carroll was instrumental in both wins. He ran for 200 yards and three scores last week to continue his stellar late-season play. He came up biggest after White Knoll trimmed the lead to seven points on a 37-yard touchdown pass from Calev Grubbs to Bruce Wilkinson with 4:50 remaining.
The Wildcats faced a third-and-4 from their own 38 when Carroll took a handoff around left end and raced 62 yards for the decisive score with 3:42 remaining.
“When we needed it, our offensive line stepped up and drove the pile. I ran right behind my blocks, and it worked out well,” Carroll said.
Lexington coach Josh Stepp said the Lexington offense has been clicking the past three weeks, and Carroll has been a huge part of that success. They finished with 393 yards of offense against White Knoll (8-4).
“He’s unbelievable,” Stepp said. “He comes to work every day with a great attitude. He’s one of the hardest workers on this team, but he’ll be the first to tell you those five in front of him are pretty special. They’re starting to gel at the right time.”
The third-down conversions proved to be a big factor. The Wildcats faced third and long several times but were able to convert 8-of-14 opportunities to keep the chains moving. Fourteen of their 19 first downs came on rushing plays, including Carroll’s dagger.
“We believe in what we do,” Stepp said. “The kids executed extremely well, especially that last third down. We saw something there, blocked it tremendously well and Slade did the rest. We had to execute, and made plays when we had too.”
White Knoll coach Dean Howell said not being able to get a key stop was huge.
“We couldn’t get them off the field,” Howell said. “I can’t tell you how many times they ran the ball on third and long and got it easily. The last one was obviously the biggest one.”
Stepp told his team to forget last week’s 50-33 win.
“We talked to our kids about putting last week behind us and approaching this week just as a first-round playoff game with a brand new opponent,” he said. “They bought into it and worked extremely hard this week. We made the necessary adjustments from last week, and that carried over tonight.”
E’Mond Brown tried his best to keep White Knoll in the game and finished with 178 yards on 25 carries. But the lack of a passing attack hurt. The Timberwolves completed 3-of-11 passes. Grubbs ran for a touchdown and threw for another, but it wasn’t enough for the Region 5-4A champs.
“To be able to do what we did after the way it started shows we have a bright future around here,” Howell said. “These guys laid a foundation of doing things the right way. The seniors are taking away some heartache. I wish we would have played better and not turned it over three times. We’ve got to keep moving and fighting. Out motto all year was keep digging, and we have to do that and get better and find a way to get like the Lexingtons and North Augustas of the world.”
Lexington started quickly. The Wildcats took the opening kickoff and scored on a 6-yard run by Carroll to cap a 7-play, 56-yard drive less than three minutes into the game.
But the teams played between the 20’s until White Knoll went on a 14-play, 80-yard march to tie the score on a 3-yard run by Rashad Jones. They faced one third down on the drive and consumed 5:59.
But that lead was short-lived as Lexington answered back with a 12-yard touchdown pass from Brandon Blake to Jayson Hopper with 3:51 remaining in the half.
L – Slade Carroll 6 run (Christian Kinsley kick) 9:03
WK – Rashad Jones 4 run (Daniel Fulmer kick) 6:36
L – Jayson Hopper 12 pass from Brandon Blake (Kinsley kick) 3:51
L – Carroll 4 run (Kinsley kick) 7:01
WK – Calev Grubbs 2 run (Fulmer kick)
L – Jordan Carr 2 run (Kinsley kick) 5:43
WK – Bruce Wilkinson 32 pass from Grubbs (Fulmer kick) 4:50
L – Carroll 62 run (Kinsley kick) 3:42
Rushing: L – Slade Carroll 29-193, Brandon Blake 4-74, James Ricker 9-48, Jordan Carr 3-6, Daquan Wells 1-15, Team 2-(-2). WK – E’Mond Brown 25-178, Maurice Jones 3-20, Gary Shell 2-11, Rashad Jones 2-7, Calev Grubbs 15-17.
Passing: L – Blake 7-16-1-59. WK – Grubbs 3-10-1-77, Eddie Prestigiacomo 0-1-0-0
Receiving: L – Dalton Abrams 2-22, Tyler Schadewald 2-11, Jayson Hopper 2-14, Daquan Wells 1-12. WK – Bruce Wilkinson 2-73, Sam Hayes 1-4.