The Carey Panthers were in top form last Thursday afternoon, Oct. 31, giving the North Gem Cowboys an early scare for Halloween.
The opening day of the Class 1A Division II 8-man football playoffs saw the Panthers treat themselves to a hefty helping of eight touchdowns (seven in the first half alone).
The Panthers tricked the Cowboys—from southeastern Idaho—all day on their way to a blistering 58-6 victory on their home turf at Derrick Parke Memorial Field in Carey.
“We had a pretty balanced attack today,” Carey head coach Lane Kirkland said. “A lot of guys were able to get the ball across the goal line, and that’s always promising and fun to take a look at.”
After halftime, Carey was in complete control, with a 50-0 tally.
In the end, five different Carey players crossed the goal line on both offense and defense.
Senior Carson Simpson continued his reign of terror on the endzone with three touchdowns.
Simpson (80 yards rushing, 35 yards receiving, 10 tackles) was coming off a historic game against Murtaugh in which he put up a Carey School record of seven touchdowns.
Simpson and the offense didn’t need to put up so many points against North Gem because the Panther defense was on point with precise tackling that only allowed two first downs in the first half.
“We needed to improve in that area after last week’s outing,” said Kirkland about his defense’s tackling. “It was a lot better and a lot more aggressive to the ball. We were filling holes a little bit better. We got back to playing more impressive.”
The stingy Panther defense caused four total turnovers (2 fumbles, 2 interceptions).
Junior Dallin Parke led the team with 14 total tackles while senior Brigham Parke had 13.
Senior Porter Larna (70-yard touchdown) and Simpson (4-yard touchdown) opened the scoring for the Panthers early in the first quarter.
Then, junior quarterback Hunter Smith tossed a 5-yard touchdown pass to Dallin Parke.
Simpson added two more scores (21- and 47-yard touchdowns), then Smith scored on an 18-yard quarterback scramble.
Brigham Parke and Dallin Parke hooked up for a one-two scoring punch in the closing minutes of the second quarter when Brigham returned a pick-six interception 26 yards. Dallin then punched in the 2-point conversion to put the game at 50-0 going into halftime.
At kickoff time, the temperature was at a brisk 34 degrees on the field and kept dropping as the game proceeded.
Cooler temps from earlier in the week allowed Kirkland to prompt his boys to clear off the field to prepare for Thursday’s game.
“It was an interesting week; I’ll tell you that,” Kirkland said. “The boys cleared the football field off on Monday, which was a great team activity that brought us together. It was hard work, but it was fun to set the tone for the week. Then it snowed Tuesday again.”
The Panthers gained 371 yards of total offense on only 37 offensive plays, giving Carey a 10-yards-per-play average.
Smith led the Panthers in total offense with 142 yards (102 passing, 40 rushing).
Freshman sparkplug Connor Simson (5 feet 3 inches, 130 pounds) had a big game with 12 tackles and one interception on defense, and 34 yards rushing on offense.
On the other end of the spectrum, defensive lineman Calvin Andrews (6 feet 4 inches, 315 pounds) had a fumble recovery and a big sack.
Panthers get rematch with Red Devils
The Panthers (8-1) will turn their attention to a rematch of the last game of the regular season with the Murtaugh Red Devils (5-4), an 80-60 shootout victory on Murtaugh soil.
“They have some speed,” said Kirkland. “We’ll just have to tackle them better, and I think our offense can do things against those guys. We’ll need to execute cleaner and be on point and be a lot hungrier.”
Murtaugh will travel to Carey on Friday, Nov. 8, for a 3 p.m. game after beating Clark County/Watersprings, 32-20.
The Red Devils finished with 408 yards of offense behind senior Kade Setoki, who had 211 yards rushing.