As exhausting as it is to hear it, football is a game of adjustments.
Look at the Southlake Carroll 2016 football season in relation to what the program looked like in 2015. A year ago, Mason Holmes had two game-breaking targets in Lil’Jordan Humphrey and Zach Farrar. They were 6-4 and 6-5 respectively and towered over opposing cornerbacks.
Once they graduated, Carroll head coach Hal Wasson and promoted offensive coordinator Mark Humble had to adjust to a new group of running backs and receivers. But when the majority of those receiving options were lost to injury, including the most recent in Robert Barnes, it then became the choice to run.
Still, the staff didn’t know what it had between Mansfield Timberview transfer Audricke Gaines and junior varsity call-up Tre Sledge.
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Well, it does now. The No. 8 Dragons (9-1) own one of the top rushing attacks in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and will use it, use it again and use it some more in Friday’s Class 6A Division II Region I bi-district playoff game against Wylie (5-5) at 7:30 p.m. at Dragon Stadium.
Carroll has rushed for 2,586 yards (258.6 per game) and seen Gaines develop into a dependable runner. He’s accounted for 1,263 of those. Realistically, that came in nine game because he was slowed by a knee infection in the season opener against Tulsa Union and finished with just 37.
Sledge, who was an option on the junior varsity, has transitioned nicely as the second back and rushed for 409 yards. But he’s making it count with a 7.5 yards per carry average. While quarterback Mason Holmes’ passing numbers are down – he just surpassed 2,000 yards – he’s added to mix rushing for more than 300.
“I always thought our offensive line was going to be really good this year, and so it starts with them,” Wasson said. “We have three guys that can carry the ball. Really, what we do depends on what we see in the defense. If our line gets good movement, then it’s going to be predicated on what matchups we have.”
However, Carroll’s rushing average is bit skewed. It’s been the strength of this team since district play started. Carroll hasn’t rushed for fewer than 262 yards in its last six games, averaged 308 yards in that span and took some momentum into the postseason when it rushed for 409 against Lewisville Hebron last week. Carroll wrapped up the outright District 5-6A championship.
Wylie comes in as the fourth-place team from District 6-6A and pretty much has no momentum following a 49-0 loss to No. 1 Allen in last week’s season finale.
Operating from a spread, Pirates quarterback Emilio Ames has thrown for more than 2,000 yards. Nearly 1,400 of that has gone to Donovan Ollie and Andrew Nwachukwu.
With the exception of Barnes (broken leg), Carroll’s defense is healthy. Defensive back Barrett Buck and R.J. Mickens have returned from injury and been active. The same goes for linebacker Ryan Thompson, who is apparently not showing any effects of an ankle fracture.
“We could have tackled better and played better in the first half,” Wasson said. “But the kids corrected it in the second half and were sound. I just want us to play harder and smarter.”
Notable: The winner of this game advances to the area round, where it will face the winner of DeSoto and Killeen … Carroll’s game can be heard on KWRD 100.7 FM with the pregame show beginning at 6:30 p.m.