“Don’t let them score,” a Carolina Forest defender uttered to his teammates late in the first half, his squad having established a large lead over St. James.
For the most part, the Panthers didn’t.
Carolina Forest (6-1, 3-0 region) blew out St. James 56-7 Friday night on the Sharks’ home field.
“I just thought Carolina Forest did what they wanted to,” St. James (3-5, 0-3 region) coach Tommy Norwood said. “There wasn't much we could do to stop them. They just kind of wore us out.”
The first quarter saw a few turnovers.
Panther defensive back Connor Meehan intercepted a pass thrown by Ethan White during St. James’ opening drive. Not long afterwards, Carolina Forest quarterback Mason Garcia found a wide open receiver for a reception that got the team into the red zone. However, a fumble and a St. James recovery gave the home team the ball deep in their own territory.
The Sharks ended up punting, and it took Carolina Forest just two plays on their second drive for running back David Legette to score his first of several touchdowns in the night, giving his team a 7-0 lead.
And once the Panthers scored, they didn’t look back.
Garcia later connected with wideout Josh Murphy, who took the ball all the way from Carolina Forest territory to the end zone for another Panther touchdown.
Adam Janack gave Carolina Forest their second interception, and Legette collected another touchdown to begin the second period.
“I thought our kids came out ready to play,” Carolina Forest head coach Marc Morris said. “I thought offensively we had some big plays early. Mason made a couple big passes early. Our defense, we gave up a couple big plays tonight, but I thought overall [we had] a pretty a good game.”
The Panthers didn’t let up for the rest of the first half, seemingly unfazed by the passionate attendees on St. James’ side who occasionally taunted the Sharks’ opponent with chants like “Overrated” during the game.
Legette scored a third touchdown, and Garcia threw a picture-perfect scoring pass to wideout Kyle Watkins to put Carolina Forest up by 35 points.
St. James had a chance to get on the scoreboard with some consecutive first downs late in the half, but an incomplete pass on fourth down in the red zone gave the Panthers the ball back.
A dime from Garcia to Trevor Lavallee gave Carolina Forest a 97-yard receiving touchdown; the team had a 42-0 lead going into halftime.
“We just got outplayed,” Norwood said. “We have to get a lot batter in all facets of the game.”
To start the second half, Legette rushed for yet another Panther touchdown.
Also in the third, the Panthers threw for another scoring reception. By this point, junior Kyle Watkins began taking snaps as he subbed in for Garcia.
Morris that noted his team thrives on having a good balance with rushes and passes.
“We try to be a 50-50 group,” he said. “Fortunately for us tonight we executed and everything went pretty well.”
St. James did avoid a shutout when running back Deondray Stanfield had a monster carry for the team’s only score of the night.
The Sharks fought, but couldn’t find any big plays down the stretch for the rest of the match other than a Jacob Morgan fumble recovery. Many times they tried to run the ball but were stopped by a stingy Carolina Forest defense.
“We feel like our defense has played well all year,” Morris said. “We expect a lot out of those guys. A lot of those guys are returning starters and hopefully we can just keep improving and playing better each week.”
St. James will host Conway next week.
“We get beat 56-7, you can’t say anything positive,” Norwood said. “We just have to get a lot better.”
Also next week, Carolina Forest plays West Florence as the postseason approaches.
“Jody Jenerette's a great coach. They won our conference last year,” Morris said. “He and his coaching staff do a great job over there.
“That was a team that beat us last year for what basically turned out to be the conference championship game,” he added. “Hopefully this year we’ll play well against them and see how well it goes in the fourth quarter.”