#COVER1: The Playoff Mismatch That Is Southlake Carroll
ABILENE, TX — The Southlake Carroll Dragons and the Texas football powerhouse that they are kept chugging along against Midland Lee Saturday night in Abilene. Carroll had too much talent in too many places for the Rebels to handle and quickly jumped out to a 35-0 lead before anyone could bat an eye. Lee had their moments and fought until the end, outscoring Carroll 27-14 in the last 27 minutes of the game, but they found themselves in a hole that no team could dig out of.
Southlake Carroll started things off at their own 26, but it was Midland’s sophomore defensive lineman Kameron Curry who tried to set the early tone. Curry blew through Carroll’s big offensive line and slung down QB Quinn Ewers for a loss of seven.
The early momentum was short-lived, however, and Carroll chugged their way across midfield behind 11, 9, and 6 yard Ewers’ completions to three different receivers. Lee held freshman running back Owen Allen to 2 yards on the next two plays to force a 4th and 2, but Carroll converted a fake punt by snapping it to a blocker who then flipped it to linebacker Graham Faloona.
Midland tackled Faloona after only four yards, but they were fooled just enough to give up a first down. This conversion was a pivotal point early in the game as Lee could have started their first possession on Carroll's side of the field.
Carroll’s athleticism flashed two plays later when Ewers hit senior wide out Wills Meyer for a 36 yard completion putting the ball at the Lee 18. On 2nd and 6, Ewers showed his speed and took a designed run to the left and into the end zone untouched with 8:41 remaining in the first quarter.
Midland Lee’s offense had difficulty finding Carroll’s weakness on defense. Starting at their 25, senior running back Ryan Quiroz picked up nine. Junior QB Mikey Serrano threw an incompletion and followed it up with a zero yard run on third down to make it 4th and 1.
Carroll went up 14-0 on the ensuing drive. Ewers ran for 20 yards on 1st and 15 after a false start penalty, and he connected with junior receiver Brady Boyd for 41 yards right after. Now on the Lee 26, Ewers found Meyer and Boyd for 17 more yards. On 3rd and 7 from the Lee 8, Ewers lofted it up for big tight end/wide receiver Blake Smith for Smith’s first touchdown of the night.
Lee’s star receiver Loic Fouonji took a lateral on the kickoff return and gave his team great field position at the Carroll 46. But once again, the offense could not give their defense any time to rest and turned the ball over on downs after making it to the Carroll 23.
Lee’s secondary was outmatched by Ewers’ arm and his endless supply of receivers to whom to throw. Even when Lee did a good job in coverage, Carroll’s offensive line gave Ewers plenty of time to survey the field until someone broke free and open. Ewers capped their 77 yard, 7 play drive with a 10 yard touchdown pass to Boyd in the back of the end zone just over the outstretched arms of a Lee defensive back. Ewers had 68 passing yards on the drive and Allen added the other nine on the ground. They gained positive yards on each play.
It was 21-0 at the end of the first quarter.
The biggest play of the game so far from Lee came on 3rd and 9 from their 21. Mikey Serrano broke free on a quarterback draw and outran the Dragon defense for 54 yards until being dragged down at the Carroll 25. Yet again, the momentum was short-lived. Fouonji reeled in a wide receiver screen and was stripped at the line of scrimmage for a turnover.
Carroll took the ball at their own 25.
Lee’s defenses did just enough after another Carroll false start. Carroll picked up 13 of the 15 necessary and punted it back to the Rebels. Lee could not get anything going and went three and out again.
Carroll started their fifth possession at their 47 after a short Lee punt. On 2nd and 9, Allen flew up the middle for 37 to the Lee 15. Smith hauled in his second touchdown over an outsized Lee corner from 10 yards out halfway through the second quarter.
Lee started to hand the ball off to do-it-all athlete Shemar Davis on the next possession. He is a little faster and more elusive than Quiroz and was able to take a first down carry 20 yards to the Lee 45. They were put behind the chains with a false start and could not recover. Fouonji’s punt was returned to the Carroll 20.
On 1st and 10, Ewers threw a dart to Boyd on a deep post that Boyd ran 75 yards to the Lee 5. Allen punctuated the two-play drive with a 5 yard scoring run on the next play. It was 35-0 with 5:01 left in the first half.
Lee picked up 9 yards on the first three plays of the next drive to make it 4th and 1. They replace Serrano with linebacker Trent Low and brought in a heavy package to try and out power Carroll for the first down. Carroll loaded the line of scrimmage with all 11 defenders, but they overplayed it. Low took the wildcat snap and burst through a hole 66 yards to pay dirt.
After a Carroll three-and-out and short punt, Lee was determined to make it a three possession game heading into the break. On 2nd and 5 from Carroll’s 48, Serrano hit Evan McMaryion for an 18 yard completion. Carroll put them at 4th and 4 on the next set of downs, but Serrano found Davis for six yards to keep the drive alive.
They had another 4th and 10 three plays later, and Serrano remained cool in the pocket and threw a strike to Christian Romero for a 16 yard gain. Lee was 1st and goal from the 2 with 43 seconds left in the half. On 2nd and 2 with 20 seconds left, Lee brought in the same personnel that scored a drive prior. This time, Karl Taylor powered his way into the end zone.
The Rebels went into the break down 35-13.
Carroll’s defense was too much for Lee to mount any serious comeback, and Carroll’s offense was excellent at keeping drives alive and the clock running. Lee made it to the 50 before punting to start the second half, and Ewers marched the Dragons down the field for a five minute, 79 yard drive. Ewers had his second rushing TD of the night from two yards out.
Linebacker Graham Faloona, the same player who had the fake punt in the first quarter, cut Lee’s next drive short with a Serrano interception. Faloona returned it about 50 yards down to the Lee 7 before being tackled. Ewers once again threw it up to Smith on a fade in the corner of the end zone to go up 49-13 with 1:30 in the third.
Lee kept fighting despite the insurmountable Carroll lead. Shemar Davis replaced Serrano at QB after Carroll’s Cade Hicks hit Serrano helmet to helmet when Serrano had already been tackled. Davis gave Lee 20 points when he connected with Romero at the front left pylon for an 18 yard TD on 4th and 5.
The last score of the game came at the very end of the fourth quarter when Carroll had their backups in. Davis marched them 77 yards down the field, and Quiroz bounced around and across the goal line from the 8 with 34 seconds to play.
In the end, Southlake Carroll was just the better team. Ewers was replaced after completing 25 of 30 passes for 359 yards and four touchdowns. He also had 8 carries for 49 yards and two more scores.
Allen ended up with 24 carries, 110 yards and a touchdown on the ground. Smith had 7 catches, 103 yards, and three TDs. Boyd had 9 for 169 and 1 score.
On the Midland Lee side, Serrano was 15-27 passing with 140 yards. He added 63 yards on the ground. Davis was 4-6 for 48 yards and the TD.
Rushing, Quiroz had 56 yards, and Davis had 56.
Lee’s 6’4, Texas Tech Fouonji had just 5 catches for 42 yards along with a fumble. Over half of those yards came in the fourth quarter. Davis had 7 catches for 57 yards.
Carroll won the time of possession battle 27:06 to 20:54, but Lee narrowed that gap significantly when the game was already out of hand.
Carroll will go on to face the undefeated Duncanville Panthers next week in the regional finals.