Closely contested football games and thunderous chants of “defense” were basically uncommon trends for G.W. Carver during the regular season.
The Wolverines (12-1) rarely — if at all — had to scratch and claw their way out of holes down the stretch, coasting to nine wins en route to capturing the Class 6A, Region 3 crown almost effortlessly. All of Carver’s wins heading into the postseason were by at least 20 points.
But that hasn’t been quite the storyline through the playoffs — it’s been a nail-bitter every step thus far.
“We talk to our seniors every Thursday because they never know which game could be your last,” Carver head coach Billy Gresham said. “Every team that we’ve played has seniors on those football teams and those guys are fighting all the way to the end just like us.”
Friday night’s 26-20 dramatic triumph over Spain Park (10-3) at Cramton Bowl marked the third consecutive outing that the Wolverines had to escape the brink of elimination in the final stages. Gresham’s group rallied against both Stanhope Elmore (score, 16-13) and Fairhope (score, 20-16) through the first two rounds.
The second-year coach joked about aging overnight the last few weeks.
“I started off as the state’s youngest 6A head coach, and I believe that I am about 50 or 45 years old right now,” said Gresham, whose squad will face Opelika at home next Friday. “I am just proud of the guys for the way they continue to keep fight.”
Player’s faith remains the recurring theme in these playoffs.
It was just last weekend that quarterback Jeremy Johnson prayed on the sideline before stepping onto the field and orchestrating a game-winning 60-yard drive.
“It’s God,” said the 6-foot-5 Johnson, who finished 23-fo-27 passing for 298 yards and ran for 79 yards on 18 carries Friday. “We’re doing great things throughout the week, and we make practice hard so that the games will be kind of easy.”
Johnson went to the man upstairs again with Spain Park’s Nick Mullens, who failed to connect on fourth-and-15 to end the game, looking to send Wolverine Nation home disappointed. For the second playoff game, Carver’s defense came away with four much-needed stops with the Jaguars driving with less than a minute to go.
“I just went to the end of the field and just prayed,” the Auburn commitment said. “I had faith in the defense because it’s not the first or second time they (made a stop).”
Senior Johnny Grant didn’t expect anything to come easy for the Wolverines once the second season got underway.
“In the playoffs, I believe you’re going to have tough games, it’s just who wants it more,” said Grant, a defensive lineman. “I just put my trust in God and he’s going to pull us through.”