There was a glimmer of hope for the Carey Panthers when Tori Alvarez took the opening kickoff 95 yards for the first score of Friday night’s opening round of the 1A-II Playoffs against the Lighthouse Christian Lions.
The play took approximately 30 seconds to produce excitement and optimism, and before the Panthers could gain legitimate momentum, it was Lighthouse’s turn to score.
The game quickly got out of hand, as Lighthouse Christian (10-0) then strung up 28 straight points in the first quarter on Carey (5-4) to put the Panther’s hopes of an upset to rest. The Lions ultimately beat the Panthers 66-20.
The game ended after the third quarter due to the mercy rule, and with that, so did Carey’s season. The Panthers boasted a slew of young kids on the team (only two seniors) and showed head coach Lane Kirkland what the future holds.
“I felt like these kids improved a great deal from the first day to the last,” said Kirkland. “They came together and grew up.”
Kirkland said his team began to come alive in the second half of the season and stuck together. The Panthers started four sophomores on both offense and defense, and with a year under the team’s belt, the future looks bright for Carey.
“The kids have a lot more confidence and success as they played together,” said Kirkland. “I’m anticipating that we’ll pick up where we left off, only older, stronger and faster. It’ll be fun to talk about over the winter. We have anticipation for our program.”
Even though the game was out of reach early for the Panthers, Kirkland also said his team had fun despite the huge loss.
After Alvarez’s opening score, Lighthouse Christian scored quickly on a 41-yard run from running back Adam Taylor. The Lions then recovered an onside kick to keep the Panthers’ offense off the field. Wide receiver Luc Fadness caught a touchdown pass from Logan Bosma moments later for the Lions’ second score.
With multiple stops on defense and seemingly fluid offense, the Lions never let Carey back in the game. Carey’s next score didn’t come until the end of the first quarter on a Christian Zarate 2-yard rushing touchdown that put the game at 28-12 at the end of the first quarter. The game wasn’t over by then; however, Lighthouse Christian put their clamp down and held Carey’s offense off the field.
“Lighthouse just made some good plays and stopped some drives,” Kirkland said. “They scored quick and often. They’re extremely fast.”
Lighthouse compiled 572 total yards to Carey’s 230. Much of Lighthouse’s yardage came from their ground game (369 yards on 11.9 average). The Lions also didn’t face a single fourth down. Lighthouse converted 4-of-6 third down conversions, which ate up a lot of the time and energy.
Lighthouse’s offense made it a point to keep Carey’s offense off the field, as the Lions dominated with time of possession with 24 minutes of play. Carey only had 12 minutes on offense.
Ironically, Carey had more first downs (14) than Lighthouse Christian (10).
On top of taking the opening kickoff to the end zone, Alvarez finished the day with 55 yards rushing on just six carries. He also finished with 109 return yards with three returns.
Quarterback Nate Adamson finished the day with just 47 yards passing while completing just 5-of-15 passes and two interceptions. Adamson also had 12 rushes for 58 yards and a touchdown. The quarterback did it on defense as well, with seven solo tackles.
Zarate finished the day with 60 yards rushing on 16 attempts and one touchdown. He averaged 3.8 yards per carry. Zarate also did a fine job on the defensive side, totaling up seven tackles with three assisted tackles.
Matt Whitworth had four solo tackles and two assisted tackles on the night.
On top of the Lions’ potent offense and stingy defense, the Panthers at times didn’t help themselves either. Carey tallied up eight penalties for 28 yards, while Lighthouse Christian had four penalties for 50 yards.
Carey had five total turnovers (three fumbles and two interceptions) on the day. The Lions didn’t turn the ball over at all.
The Lions ran the ball well all night, and the bulk of the yards came from Adam Taylor, who finished the day with 241 yards on the ground and three touchdowns and averaged 13.4 yards per carry.
Fadness finished the day with 105 yards receiving for the Lions on three receptions and had one touchdown.
The Lions took the game, but Carey had the last laugh. As the final seconds ticked down in the third quarter, the Panthers laughed off the loss and began to have some fun as a few penalties were called on the Panthers. It was all fun at this point.
“I felt like we played with no fear and with nothing to lose,” said Kirkland. “We really enjoyed the last game even though we lost. We showed growth and mental toughness. There’s continuous effort on this team. We played hard every down and gave our best shot—that’s what it’s all about. We just kept playing and kept positive.”
The 2013 season was somewhat of a rebuilding year, and according to Kirkland, the future looks like 2014 will get back to the way Carey usually plays: experience, grit and fun.
Lighthouse Christian moves on to play Council Saturday at 2 p.m. in the state semifinals and are looking for their third straight championship-game appearance.
Check today’s Express Web site for Carey-Lighthouse Christian stats.