The last time Keller started a season 4-0 was 1967 and the Dragons knew it going into Friday night’s District 5-6A opener at Keller ISD Complex.
Keller gave Carroll its best shot, but fell short as the Dragons won 58-37 behind SMU commit TJ McDaniel’s huge game on the ground.
McDaniel rushed for a season-high 258 yards on 33 carries and scored five touchdowns.
“We knew we’d get their best shot and that the whole town was going to come and support,” he said. “We underestimated them a little bit in the first half, but went in the second half and we had to change our mindset and treat this team like anyone else. That’s exactly what we did and we put up points in the second half and it was awesome.”
Trailing 23-21 at halftime, No. 8 Carroll (4-0, 1-0) got a 2-yard TD run by McDaniel early in the third to put the Dragons in front 29-23. They wouldn’t trail again.
“We made some minor adjustments like blocking assignments — it really wasn’t much,” McDaniel said.
McDaniel added a 73-yard TD run down the Keller sideline with 7:32 left in the quarter to give Carroll a 36-23 lead. He rushed for 97 yards just in the third quarter when Carroll scored 23 points.
Will Bowers added the third TD in the frame on a 4-yard run and then caught a 2-point conversion thrown by Glenn Mitchell to make it 44-30.
Bowers would add another 4-yard TD run and McDaniel iced it with a 12-yard score late in the fourth.
Bowers finished with 10 carries for 72 yards and two touchdowns, and threw for 217 yards on 11 of 14 passing and one touchdown.
“We went into halftime with a chip on our shoulder and knew we had to come out fast,” he said. “We scored on our first two possessions and the defense came up with a stop to give us more momentum.”
Bowers’ TD pass came on a 73-yard bomb on Carroll’s first offensive play to Mitchell.
“We didn’t let Keller go to 4-0 and that was the goal tonight,” he said. “This just builds momentum going into the next week.”
Keller (3-1, 1-1), which hasn’t beaten the Dragons since 1999, answered Mitchell’s TD catch when Sloan Henry hit Damon Smith for an 11-yard TD to cap off a 11-play and 75-yard drive to tie it 7-7 midway through the first quarter. It was the first time an opponent scored on Carrroll in the first half this season.
McDaniel gave Carroll a 14-7 lead on the next drive with a 17-yard TD run just two minutes later.
The Indians scored 17 unanswered points to take a 23-14 lead, giving the Dragons their first deficit all season long.
Henry and Colton Nelson connected on a 58-yard TD pass down the Carroll sideline; Enoch Ntchobo rushed in a 1-yard TD; and Matt DeWitt nailed a 29-yard field goal with 3:45 left in the half.
The Dragons cut it to 23-21 on an 8-play, 75-yard drive capped by McDaniel’s 8-yard TD run with 1:30 left in the first half.
Henry and Smith connected on two more TDs in the second half from 64 and 28 yards. Henry was 19 of 30 for 342 yards and four TDs. Smith had seven catches for 174 yards and three TDs. Ntchobo led Keller in rushing with 27 carries for 127 yards and one TD.
In Week 6, Carroll hosts Denton Guyer while Keller plays Timber Creek on Oct. 5.