What matters most to Carroll's football program is to make sure that anytime it faces a counter-punch, it will respond.
Now, when the Dragons jumped on Arlington Bowie 28-7 in the second quarter of last Friday's Class 5A Region I Division I bi-district playoff game, the Volunteers answered. They cut the lead to 28-14.
Carroll could have been complacent. But if you want to maintain the mental edge and tell an opponent it's not coming back, you answer with your own score. That's what Carroll did. A.J. Ezzard's 20-yard touchdown run extended the lead back to 35-14 before the half. The Dragons (10-1) then cruised, 56-14.
“This time of year, you're going to see great athletes and great plays,” Carroll coach Hal Wasson said. “But we had to make sure we did our jobs. Our kids came back and did what we asked. That's what we strive to do. We trust our players.”
Carroll now advances to the area round where it will meet Midland Lee (9-2) at 7 p.m. Friday at Saginaw Chisholm Trail's Ranger Stadium. The game can be heard on KWRD 100.7 FM with the pregame show starting at 6 p.m.
Against Bowie, the Dragon defense stayed in its base defense, taking away passing lanes from quarterback Keaton Perry, who threw for only 73 yards. Aside from two big plays – one coming against the reserves – the Volunteers were pretty fenced in offensively. As Wasson said, they didn't want to re-invent the wheel.
The mental game
Wasson is a proponent of putting his team in the best position mentally before a football game. Throughout his 33-year career, he's used some mental exercises.
But it wasn't until about 2010 when he realized that he wanted to make sure that strengthening the mental part of his team was essential.
Each morning, the players will be in a classroom for 20-30 minutes going through visualization exercises about intensity, preparation, attention to the little things, discipline and the will to win. The afternoons are spent on the practice field.
“It's an application to everything we do,” Wasson said. “We're not assuming anything. We want everything to be done during the course of the week.”
Carroll has a 10-game winning streak … if the playoffs go the way Carroll hopes it does, the Dragons should produce two 1,000-yard rushers again. Quarterback Ryan Agnew is at 1,096, while Ezzard is at 868 following his 164-yard 4-touchdown outing against Bowie … senior Matt Miller continues to improve at A.J. Copeland's replacement at outside linebacker. “Confidence is a learned behavior,” Wasson said … Chisholm Trail became the site because Carroll and Lee couldn't get Abilene's Shotwell Stadium on Friday. Arlington Lamar, which defeated Justin Northwest, has a rematch with Abilene Cooper. Last year's meeting was in DFW so the Vikings has the return trip. Carroll flipped Chisholm Trail against Lee's selection of Texas Tech's AT&T Jones Stadium.
Midland Lee Part II
Way back on Sept. 6, these two teams met in the Southwest Showdown at Dragon Stadium. Carroll won easily, 63-14, but committed four turnovers. Much has changed in the past two months. The Rebels shared the District 2-5A championship with San Angelo Central but lost the head-to-head matchup. They ran past El Paso El Dorado, 47-28, in the bi-district round in El Paso's Socorro's Athletics Complex. The Rebels rolled up 560 yards of total offense. Quarterback Caden Coots threw for 380 yards and three touchdowns.
When last these two met, Carroll shut down Coots and held him to only 113 yards. The Rebels only had 194 yards of total offense.
“This is the first time I've ever played a team twice in the same season,” Wasson said. “They're different, but so are we. They look like they try to do some deception with motion and things like that. We just have to have a good week of preparation.”
Should the Dragons win, they will get the winner of Euless Trinity-Mansfield Timberview the Friday or Saturday after Thanksgiving.