Northeast Tarrant

Dragons have to adjust after standout breaks leg

Southlake Carroll WR Robert Barnes suffered a season-ending injury last week.
Southlake Carroll WR Robert Barnes suffered a season-ending injury last week. Special to the Star-Telegram

Now Southlake Carroll’s football program has to turn Plan B into the new Plan A.

A season-ending broken fibula for senior safety/wide receiver Robert Barnes in his right leg ended his season this past Friday in the 44-13 win over Northwest Byron Nelson. Barnes had successful surgery on Saturday and is expected to make a full recovery.

“Like anyone, he’s really disappointed,” Carroll coach Hal Wasson said. “The good news is that his career is just getting started. He’s made a great run for us. But he’ll have to lead in a difference capacity. This will mend, and he will have to go about his life.”

An Oklahoma commit, Barnes brought an intensity and energy that will be hard to replace. However, the core of Carroll’s program is built around the sum and not the individual parts. That’s how this program has won eight state titles, played for nine and been in state title contention almost every season.

Of course, the major gap is on the defensive side, where Barnes was an enforcer. Carroll (7-1, 5-0 District 5-6A) could play him anywhere in the secondary and know it would be pretty difficult for teams to convert vertical plays.

In fairness, Wasson said that Barnes was only a part of the offense for about three and a half games. But he maximized his time. He quickly emerged as Carroll’s big-play threat (25-422, 16.9 yards per catch).

What Wasson, offensive coordinator Mark Humble and the rest of the Carroll offensive staff has to do is come up with a strategy that will make up for what he Barnes leaves.

To start, the Dragons have Jackson Davis who is pretty close to doing what Barnes did. He has 24 receptions for 392 yards and averaged 16.2 yards per reception.

But others have been developing. Jack Johansson, who has split time between offense and defense, has started to see increased time with the offense. He has 383 total yards (243 rushing, 136 receiving) and seven touchdowns. Being a two-pronged threat creates opportunities.

Junior Tavian Gould has been biding his time in the backfield (18-82). But his athleticism is well known and this could be the time for the coaching staff to expand his role.

There’s also running back Tre Sledge, who has started to become a bonafide contributor over the last several weeks. Sledge, who is Audricke Gaines’ backup, is averaging 6.6 yards per carry. He has yet to catch a pass. But that doesn’t mean he can’t.

“Robert is going to Oklahoma because he’s a pretty good athlete, so it’s hard to exactly replace a guy who is going to OU,” Wasson said. “But our guys have great work ethic. We’ve given them a lot of reps in practice.

“They’ve been getting better, so we like we what we’re seeing. Anything we do, those guys can step up and be a part of what we’re asking.”

Notable: Despite the loss of Barnes, Carroll did become healthier on the defense, which has been pretty consistent all season. Defensive backs Barrett Buck (undisclosed) and R.J. Mickens (undisclosed) were back in the lineup against the Bobcats. Linebacker Ryan Thompson (undisclosed) also returned against Nelson after going out in the season opener against Tulsa Union. Thompson’s playing time should increase in these final two games … No. 9 Carroll’s game against Hurst L.D. Bell (3-5, 1-4) at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Bedford’s Pennington Field can be heard on KWRD 100.7 FM, with the pregame show starting at 6:30 p.m.