The Carey Panthers are on a mission, and that’s just how they played last Thursday night in a home 1A Division II state quarterfinal matchup versus the Mackay Miners.
Carey overcame an early mishap at Derrick Parke Memorial Field on its way to rack up 349 yards of total offense and a 48-0 victory.
Carey senior running back Porter Mecham fumbled on the opening kickoff when he fielded a short kick. Mackay recovered and started their drive on the 50-yard line.
The Panther defense quickly established its dominance when Mecham took the ball right back by forcing a Mackay fumble. Dallin Parke recovered the prize.
“It’s not the best way to start a game, but P.M. busted the ball loose and we recovered,” Carey coach Lane Kirkland said.
Carey (10-0) more than recovered; they dominated from that point on. Sophomore quarterback Hunter Smith led the opening drive that resulted in a five-yard score by Smith.
Meanwhile, Mackay (4-5) had trouble moving the ball and ended the game with only 73 yards of offense.
The Panthers had 25 solo tackles on defense and were led by Dallin Parke, who had seven tackles, two interceptions and a fumble recovery.
“The key to the game was to control the QB, and we really controlled the QB and kept the Miners in check nearly every single play,” Kirkland said. “The ‘D’ coaches really dialed up a great game plan and the kids bought in and performed.”
Mackay’s quarterback Dallin Green was on the run for most of the game as he racked up three interceptions and was sacked three times.
After Smith’s opening score, Carey scored again with a Brigham Parke touchdown reception from Smith to push the score to 14-0.
Smith ended the game at 8-for-16 for 135 yards through the air and two touchdown passes.
“We knew Mackay would bring a solid four-front with blitzing linebackers and do their best to stop our run game,” Kirkland said. “We prepared some pass plays to counter that when needed, and it worked. We have solid weapons in all the skill spots.”
The Panthers added to the onslaught with scores from junior running back Carson Simpson and Mecham to make it a 28-0 halftime lead.
Simpson and Mecham had their way with the Mackay defense, as Simpson tallied up 124 yards of total offense and two touchdowns while Mecham had 115 yards of total offense and two total touchdowns.
After halftime, it was more of the same from Carey, with Smith, Simpson and Mecham leading the charge. Carey ate up most of the third quarter and got a score from Simpson.
On Carey’s next possession, Mecham caught a 20-yard pass from Smith for a touchdown in the first play of the fourth quarter.
Senior Porter Larna then added the dagger when he scored with five minutes remaining.
Panthers and Tigers ready to claw
The victory advanced the Panthers into their fifth consecutive state semifinal game.
Carey now must travel to Moscow to play Kendrick (10-0) in the Kibbie Dome at the University of Idaho. Kendrick is also the only other undefeated team in 1A Division II. Kendrick beat Garden Valley 64-32 in the quarterfinals.
“It is a long road trip,” said Kirkland. “We plan to have fun along the way and break it up as needed to play our best road game of the year. We believe in these kids.”
What now stands in Carey’s way to repeat as champions is a Kendrick team that can put up points. The Tigers scored 584 points through last weekend’s games.
Carey is known for putting up big points too, but the Panthers have scored 518 points, by comparison.
Finally, meeting a team that can hang with the Panthers, Kirkland isn’t deterred and is confident with his team from starter to role player.
“We have a bunch of quiet leaders that just get it done on the field,” Kirkland said. “These kids practice hard, they play hard, and they expect to win. These kids are humble and hungry, and very determined.”
The Panthers’ closest game of the season was a 26-point win over Lighthouse Christian (34-8), while the Tigers’ closest game was against Genesee to start the season. That game was a 22-point win for Kendrick in a 72-50 game.
Kendrick is led by junior quarterback Alex Sneve and running back Cooper Hewett.
“Kendrick has some dudes that are fast and are good tacklers,” Kirkland said. “They have enjoyed a lot of success. Hewett and Sneve are the keys to the Tiger offense. Hewett is fast and elusive, while Sneve runs the option show.”
The game is scheduled for a 9:30 p.m. MST kickoff Friday, Nov. 9, at the Kibbie Dome in Moscow.