GREENVILLE — There was no way the Carson City-Crystal football team was losing its homecoming game at Greenville on Friday night; the Eagles made that apparent very early.
Friday was a night where nothing could go wrong for the Eagles as they turned on the cruise control by halftime and defeated St. Charles, 48-6.
Perhaps the only misstep of the night was, ironically enough, on the Eagles’ first drive of the game. The offense wasn’t able to get a first down and was forced to punt after just three plays. Eagles head coach Tim Swore wasn’t happy about the start and he made sure his offensive linemen knew it.
“I had to get on our lineman, ‘If we don’t get yards on this next play, I’m calling a timeout,”’ Swore recalled. “I think they knew what I meant and from that point on, we were fine; I don’t know that we used a timeout all night.”
St. Charles was forced into a three-and-out on its first drive and the Eagles took over at their own 37-yard line following the punt. Senior quarterback Mason Smith then led the offense down the field, chunking away yards play after play. The drive was capped off by a 31-yard connection from Smith to junior receiver Grayson Ackles. The two-point conversion was successful on a run from senior Cade Bolen.
The Eagles prepared for the defensive stint but it wouldn’t last long. Following a poor snap by St. Charles, the ball remained unclaimed in the Bulldogs’ backfield before Eagles senior Logan Hopkins jumped on it for the recovery, giving the Eagles the ball just 32 yards from the end zone. Smith made the most of the opportunity and found Ackles once again for the 20-yard catch and run into the end zone as the Eagles went up 15-0.
Still in the first quarter and still looking for its inaugural first down of the night, the Bulldogs’ offense was stymied again by an interception from senior Connor Erskin, who returned the interception 43 yards. The Eagles started at the Bulldogs’ 12-yard line and Smith took just one play to find junior Gavin Reeder in the end zone for his third passing touchdown of the quarter.
Up 22-0, the defense wasn’t resting on the large lead built — the Eagles were ready to put the game away quickly. Bolen recovered a fumble and the offense went back in control to start the second quarter. Another huge catch by Ackels set the Eagles up in the red zone where Bolen finished off the drive with a seven-yard touchdown rush.
Bolen then made a huge defensive stop on the next drive. The St. Charles quarterback took it himself with about eight yards to go on a fourth down at midfield and Bolen blew him up for the tackle — just when he thought he’d evaded all of the Eagles’ tacklers.
A turnover on downs set the Eagles up for their fifth scoring drive of the first half. Bolen, once again, finished off the drive with his second touchdown — a 17-yard rush to put the Eagles up 35-0 with 5:06 left in the half. No running clock yet, that’d have to wait until after halftime.
But the Eagles’ scoring barrage wasn’t finished. Hopkins intercepted a pass on defense and set the Eagles up 43 yards from the end zone with the return. Ackles and Smith connected on their third touchdown of the night — an 18-yard catch and run to put the Eagles up 41-0 heading into the locker room at halftime.
Three first-half touchdowns for Ackels properly represents how open he was all night and his connection with Smith was showcased in a big way.
“We have a lot of reps in practice,” Ackles said. “We’ve hung out a few times, went golfing a couple times, I’ve got a great connection with the guy … Mason was just really locating the ball good and I was running the right routes. Good blocks by the lineman, it was a great night for football.”
Hopkins was the do-everything man for the defense. With a hoarse voice caused by all of the excitement and yelling from the game, Hopkins said the team delivered on its game plan.
“We were playing hard and fast, I love the intensity and aggressiveness,” he said. “Our varsity defense pitched a shutout and our varsity offense, I love what we were doing with that. It just feels good to get another win.”
As if he didn’t do enough for the Eagles, Hopkins also saw a few snaps at quarterback in the second half with the game well in hand.
“That was awesome, that was a dream come true,” Hopkins smiled. “I’ve always wanted to play some quarterback.”
The defense had a nice cushion of a lead from the offense and Hopkins said the connection between Smith and Ackels has been a fun one to watch develop.
“Grayson and Mason are a great duo to have on our team and I’m so incredibly proud of how far they’ve come,” Hopkins said. “As far as everybody else, our o-line is getting stronger every week, I feel.”
The great passing attack was set up by the stellar running from Bolen, a back who was asserting his dominance at the point of attack during Friday’s game.
“Cade is developing into the runner who is so difficult to handle,” Swore said. “And you’ve got Landon (VanderVlucht) who runs his butt off and blocks; our kids are blocking for each other. Whatever is there, we take it and that’s where we needed to get. We have so many young guys that every week, we develop their knowledge of what we’re doing, their football IQ grows.”
Swore feels that this game represented what the team has been since getting a thrilling 14-point comeback win against Riverview Gabriel Richard on Sept. 9. It’s been a different Eagles squad ever since — a more confident, more empowered group of Eagles.
“I think it happened when we won the game on the field goal a couple weeks ago,” Swore said. “I just think the guys are like, ‘We believe in ourselves.’ Just winning a game like that where we were down two scores, that hasn’t happened since I’ve been here. So we were down two scores, we fought our way back and since then, that’s the point where this group said, ‘You know what, we can do this and we can be better and get the job done.’”
The Eagles showed a lot of toughness and intensity on defense and Swore expects that to continue now that “football weather” is back and in effect.
“Remember, 10 of the 11 who are on offense just turn around and play defense,” he said. “We condition, we run, we do the things it takes. I love the energy level tonight and I think it helped that the temps are cooler and you’re not getting quite as tired; now it’s going to be football season.”
The Eagles finished off their scoring in the third quarter with a 10-yard rushing touchdown by Erskin. Up 48-0, the junior varsity played the entire fourth quarter. They allowed a one-yard rushing touchdown to St. Charles’ Taylor Grunas with 35 seconds left in the game.
Smith finished with eight completions for 174 yards and four touchdowns. Ackels finished with 134 yards receiving and three touchdowns. Bolen rushed 14 times for 124 yards and scored two touchdowns. VanderVlucht added 35 yards rushing on seven carries and 22 yards receiving on two catches. Hopkins led the defense with 12 total tackles, a fumble recovery and an interception.
The Eagles, now 4-1, will travel to Johannesburg-Lewiston (0-5) for their next game at 7 p.m. Friday.