It was apparent from the start that G.W. Carver’s Jeremy Johnson wasn’t going to have his ‘A’ game.
The senior quarterback misfired on several passes, including three potential first-half scores.
Good thing for Johnson and Wolverine nation that seniors Harvey Harris and Timothy Graves were on top of theirs.
Harris scored the go-ahead touchdown in the decisive quarter and Graves nabbed two interceptions and blocked a field goal in Friday’s 16-13 victory over Stanhope Elmore in the opening round of the AHSAA Class 6A playoffs.
“Those guys really showed up big for us tonight,” Carver coach Billy Gresham said. “Those guys played a great game. There’s really nothing more than I can say about the effort they played with out there in some tough situations.”
Carver (10-1) led the entire game until running back Byran Brower’s 7-yard scamper up the middle gave Stanhope a 13-10 advantage just seconds into the fourth quarter to silence the home crowd at Cramton Bowl.
“This was the brand of football that we play,” Mustangs coach Jeff Foshee said. “We thought we could move the ball, be physical in the second half — we came out and did that. We could have laid down, but we came back and were leading.”
Both teams would trade empty possessions, however, the Wolverines wouldn’t let another chance to put the finishing touches on their opponents be wasted with the game nearing an end.
Johnson connected on three critical passes during the game-winning drive to move his team to Stanhope’s 19 to setup Harris, who reversed field and outran several defenders to the left corner of the end zone for the touchdown with a little more than four minutes remaining.
“We had to make big plays,” Harris said. “When we got into position to score, I knew I had to punch it in. This was good for us because we never had a game like this before. It shows that we’re a tough team, and we will fight all the way to the end.”
It was Graves’ heroics that allowed for Carver to grab a double-digit edge before the break.
The senior defensive back chased down and intercepted an off target throw by Brandon Wilson, setting the stage for Johnson’s lone TD strike. Two plays later, Draequon Murphy hauled in a 79-yard bomb to make it 10-0 with 4:04 to go in the half.
Graves also blocked Angel Vasquez’s 20-yard field goal to keep the Mustangs (8-3) scoreless.
“This year, he’s been our guy,” Gresham said. “He’s (got) six interceptions and blocked a kick out here today; he’s just a playmaker. He’s one of those seniors with a never-die attitude. I know a lot of people love Jeremy Johnson, but he’s our best football player.”
Johnson, an Auburn commitment, finished 13-of-30 for 185 yards.
“It was rust and my shoulder,” Johnson said of his off night. “I practiced a little bit this week — not the whole practice. I was rusty and my shoulder kind of got to me in the second half, so it kind of slowed me down from making the throws I should make.”
Stanhope Elmore had an opportunity to be the first with points on the board, but Vasquez missed a 33-yarder after his teammates recovered a muffed punt. Senior tailback Kenterris Tyre had a 2-yard TD run in the third quarter.
“Our kids played really hard, it’s a tough pill,” said Foshee, whose defense held its eighth opponent under 21 points. “We just came up on the short end of the stick.”