The long drive down to Memphis on Friday didn’t seem to bother the West Carroll War Eagles, who delivered their fourth consecutive win with a 28-14 victory over the Middle College Mustangs in the second round of the state playoffs.
“We had a good feeling going into the game, and I thought we played really well,” said West Carroll head coach Josh Wolfe.
The coach specifically praised his defense for an outstanding performance.
“Middle College had some dynamic players on offense, and I wanted our defense to bend but not break against them,” said Wolfe. “I was real proud of the way our defense played, and we were also able to run the ball.”
Cody Wildridge led West Carroll’s defensive effort with 10 tackles.
Jeremiah Bryant was out front offensively with a total of 229 yards rushing on 19 carries and all four of the team’s touchdowns.
Altogether, West Carroll amassed 352 rushing yards while holding Middle College to 214.
With the win, West Carroll advances to the third round of the playoffs for the first time since the 2011-12 season and only the second time in school history.
But the War Eagles will be facing a big obstacle this upcoming Friday night as they re-match with the undefeated Lake County Falcons on their home turf in Tiptonville.
Though West Carroll suffered a 60-14 regular season loss to the Falcons back in October, Wolfe said he and his War Eagles are in no way intimidated, nor are they worried about going in as the underdogs.
“Sure it’s going to be a challenge, but we don’t have any pressure on us,” said Wolfe. “We just need to go out and play all four quarters. And while they may have been the better team all season, we just have to be better than them for 48 minutes.”
This past Friday night at Fairgrounds Stadium, the War Eagles made good on their opening possession as Bryce Bolton put the War Eagles in the red zone with a big 55-yard first-down carry. Bryant ran it in for six from seven yards out on a fourth down and then aired one to Jacob Blankenship for two, giving West Carroll an early 8-0 lead.
Bryant cut the Mustangs’ following possession short with a pass interception late in the first quarter and then scored his second TD of the game early in the second with a 49-yard breakaway sprint. Jack Barrow caught Bryant’s conversion pass, and West Carroll was up 16-0.
The rest of the second quarter featured a fumble recovery by Wildridge and a pass interception by Wyatt Baker, but the War Eagles were not able to capitalize on either of these turnovers, leaving the halftime tally at 16-0.
The Mustangs made their first mark on the scoreboard halfway through the third quarter with an eight-yard touchdown carry by Joyner Stevens, but West Carroll stopped them on the two-point attempt, leaving Middle College trailing by ten.
Bryant widened that gap out to 22-6 with a six-yard scoring run a few minutes later, followed by a failed conversion attempt.
The War Eagles reclaimed possession late in the third when Bryant recovered a Mustang fumble after Perry stripped the ball from the runner’s hands.
A 34-yard pass from Bryant to Barrow put West Carroll on Middle College’s two-yard line early in the fourth quarter. Weatherford charged it into the end zone, but the play was called back on a penalty. Then Bryant made it stick from 12-yards out for West Carroll’s final touchdown, but couldn’t connect on the conversion pass.
The Mustangs managed to score again on a 24-yard run by Benjamin Calvin and a conversion carry by Stevens with just over a minute left on the clock.
But, from there, it was just a matter of taking a couple of knees for West Carroll to secure the win.