Southlake Carroll didn’t have the hottest of starts to the 2016 football season, losing 21-10 to Tulsa (Okla.) Union in Week 1.
Coach Hal Wasson and the Dragons were searching for offense, which they got when they inserted senior defensive back and Oklahoma commit Robert Barnes at wide receiver, a position the 6-foot-2, 190-pound star had not played since the fifth grade,
Barnes, already a 2017 selection for the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, stepped up with six catches for 153 yards in a Week 2 win over Arlington Martin.
It’s hard to exactly replace a guy who is going to OU. But our guys have great work ethic.
Southlake Carroll coach Hal Wasson
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On Oct. 21 against Trophy Club Nelson, however, Barnes suffered a season-ending broken right fibula. He had successful surgery on the leg the next day, but once again, the Dragons were scrambling for some offense.
“It’s hard to exactly replace a guy who is going to OU,” said Wasson after Barnes’ injury. “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.”
Enter running back Audricke Gaines and a revived Dragons ground game.
The Mansfield Timberview transfer was having a terrific season before Barnes’ injury, but since then the 5-foot-11, 195-pound senior has shifted into another gear — which also goes for the entire rushing attack.
Gaines was averaging 118.6 yards per game before Barnes went down, and 156.7 yards per game since. He rushed for a season-high 240 yards and four touchdowns in a 52-34 victory over Hebron to close out the regular season and give Carroll the outright District 5-6A championship. He had 154 yards last week in a 28-3 bi-district win over Wylie.
On the season, Gaines has 1,419 yards and 20 touchdowns, has hit the century mark eight times, and has a touchdown in every game.
Senior running back Robert Sledge has 501 yards and four touchdowns, and teammate Jack Johansson has added 412 yards and eight touchdowns. Johansson, a senior, had nine carries for 102 yards and a score against Wylie.
I always thought our offensive line was going to be really good this year, and so it starts with them.
“We have three guys that can carry the ball. Really, what we do depends on what we see in the defense,” Wasson said. “If our line gets good movement, then it’s going to be predicated on what matchups we have.”
This week, No. 8 Carroll (10-1), winner of 10 in a row, faces No. 2 DeSoto (11-0) at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Kimbrough Stadium in Murphy in the 6A Division II area round. DeSoto has allowed 128 yards rushing per game this season.
Testing the DeSoto defense is senior offensive linemen Carson Green, Ryan Miller and Henry Klinge, and juniors Matthew Leehan and Jackson Kimble. The Carroll interior line has been crucial in helping the Dragons to a rushing average of 311 yards per game — up from 243 yards in their first eight games.
“I always thought our offensive line was going to be really good this year, and so it starts with them,” Wasson said.
Playing the percentages
Through 8 games
Through 11 games