G.W. Carver had started slow all season. And when the Wolverines went to No. 2 Smiths Station on Friday, they knew they’d have to play their best game of the year.
That’s exactly what they did.
Carver forced three first-half turnovers and jumped ahead early on the previously undefeated Panthers to win 41-7 in a key region matchup.
“Nobody saw this coming,” Carver linebacker Shaun Hamilton said. “We shocked the world. Our coach showed us when we were watching film how everybody was doubting us. All the analysts and everybody were picking us to lose. I liked the way everybody faced the challenge, and we came out and balled.”
The Wolverines (6-2, 4-2 Class 6A, Region 3) forced a fumble in the second play from scrimmage that led to a Ricky Scott Jr. return for a score. The Carver defense forced a three and out and drove down the field to go up 14-0 after a Draequon Murphy 1-yard touchdown run to take a two-score lead over the Panthers (7-1, 5-1).
Murphy would come up big again on the first play of the second quarter with a 60-yard interception return for a touchdown, and Mike McKenny hit Charles Standberry for a 7-yard touchdown pass to take a 27-0 lead into the half.
“We had to come out and shock the world,” Murphy said. “A lot of people doubted us, and we came out and we played ball. That’s what coach told us to do, and we came out and did it.”
Murphy finished with six catches for 34 yards with a touchdown, three carries for 25 yards and a touchdown, and the interception return for a score.
McKenny went 17-for-22 passing for 149 yards, three touchdowns and an interception. Standberry had six catches for 52 yards and a touchdown.
The Carver defense played the best it’s played all year, holding the Panthers — who came in averaging 241 rushing yards a game — to just 136 yards on the ground.
“Coach (Billy) Gresham, he preached today, all he was talking about was respect,” Hamilton said. “A lot of people in the state don’t think that we’re the same Carver team — we lost Jeremy (Johnson) and all that kind of stuff — but I’m just glad the way our guys came out and fought hard. We’re just trying to get our name back out there.”
The win secured a playoff spot for the Wolverines for the sixth straight season. Smiths Station still sits atop of the region because it has already beaten Auburn and Opelika, who are both 7-1 and 5-1 in region.
Carver plays Lanier next Friday at Cramton Bowl.
“We told our guys after we lost to Auburn in Week 6, ‘Every game from now on is a playoff game for us,’ ” Gresham said. “So we want to make sure and we play every game like it’s our last.”