High School Football

Carolina Forest rallies past Lexington in first-round 5A playoff game

Carolina Forest lost its final four games of 2016. Matt Beale and his Panther teammates wanted to make sure history didn’t repeat itself.

The team won its first playoff game as a member of the state’s largest football classification with a 34-21 victory at Lexington on Friday. And they did it in dynamic fashion.

After trailing by 14 points 13 minutes into the game, the offense came alive and the defense followed suit, carving up the Wildcats en route to the win.

Coming into the game, Lexington was allowing an average of just 17 points per game. Carolina Forest doubled that mark with a combination of effective play calling and a few huge plays. Maybe none of them were bigger than Beale’s 72-yard touchdown pass to Jackson Weatherwax 16 seconds into the fourth quarter. It gave the Panthers a 13-point lead and it was as close as the game would be the rest of the way.

Turning point

Carolina Forest earned every bit of the momentum necessary in the third quarter. During that 12-minute span, the Panthers turned a seven-point deficit into a six-point advantage, in part because they allowed the Wildcats to gain fewer than 20 yards in the quarter.

Key performers

Matt Beale: The Carolina Forest quarterback had 137 yards passing and 91 rushing, with all but 3 of those total yards coming in the second half.

Jose Carter: The sophomore defensive end had several tackles for loss and quarterback pressures while playing opposite a senior offensive tackle.

Shawn Mallo: Two of Mallo’s three receptions went for touchdowns, and both came in the second half.

By the numbers

5: This was Carolina Forest’s fifth all-time playoff victory, and the first as a member of the state’s largest classification.

8: From the beginning of the second quarter on, the Panthers recorded eight more first downs than Lexington.

22: The teams combined for 22 penalties for 160 total yards.

They said it

“That was about our defense. We gave up a couple big plays early, but we weathered the storm. … We came out and we were so nervous, we could barely run a play on offense.” – Carolina Forest coach Marc Morris.

“When we had a chance, we didn’t put our foot on the gas pedal. … And then we came out flat in the second half.” – Lexington coach Perry Woolbright, on his team going from a 14-0 lead to a 34-14 deficit in a matter of, basically, two quarters.

Scoring and stats

First quarter

L - William Crouch 24 rec from Chase Crouch (Matthew Waller kick)

Second quarter

L - Jordan Hiller 25 run (Waller kick)

CF - Mason Garcia 6 run (Freddie Kane kick)

Third quarter

CF - Shawn Mallo 19 rec from Matt Beale (Kane kick)

CF - Zamir Shaw 10 run (kick failed)

Fourth quarter

CF - Jackson Weatherwax 72 rec from Beale (Kane kick)

CF - Mallo 24 rec from Beale (Kane kick)

L - W. Crouch 27 rec from C. Crouch (Waller kick)

Individual leaders

Rushing: CF: Quasim Porter 19-75; Matt Beale 18-91. L: Jordan Hiller 11-29; Akeem Nicholas 8-21.

Passing: CF: Matt Beale 5-9-0, 137. L: Chase Crouch 11-26-2, 126.

Receiving: CF: Jackson Weatherwax 1-72; Shawn Mallo 3-60. L: Mitchel McGee 3-54; William Crouch 4-62.