FOOTBALL

Carver outlasts Lee in heated rivalry, 20-15, at Cramton Bowl

Nick Alvarez
Montgomery Advertiser

Both coaches knew this could happen. The ingredients were apparent: heated rivalry, positioning near the top of Class 6A, Region 2 on the line, homecoming for G.W. Carver's seniors. 

Each team committed multiple unsportsmanlike conduct penalties. The tense game Friday at Cramton Bowl was stopped temporarily in the second half with both teams leaving the field. A Carver receiver was carried off on a stretcher, which triggered a fan to charge the Lee sideline in anger.

In a frenzied contest fitting for the history between the teams, the Wolverines  beat Lee 20-15. Senior running back Juwon Gatson scored the go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter, helping Carver (4-2, 3-1) overtake the Generals (3-2, 2-1) in the region standings. 

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Carver's Kedarius Cobb (1) gets crunched as he takes a low pass during the first half.

"We knew what we had to do," Carver running back Ligon said. "That's why we're disciplined." 

The preparation occurred 24 hours prior. Carver devoted a segment of practice to prepare if a fight broke out during the game. After a play, a coach would yell "fight" and players would sprint to their bench and face the stands. 

Lee coach Eric Hudson worried about emotions running high, too. It was the Generals' first game since Sept. 11. A series of pandemic-related cancellations and a bye week left Lee with a long layoff. Hudson emphasized ball control and calmness. Neither were apparent in the first half. 

Carver started its first drive on the 2-yard line and in two plays — a jet sweep and Sidney Franklin long reception — led by seven. Lee fumbled on its next possession and threw an interception to Gatson the series after that. At halftime, the Wolverines led 13-0. 

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The Generals simplified their offense after the break. Running back Reginald Davis lined up in the wildcat and totaled two touchdowns in just under five minutes. Fifteen-straight Lee points turned momentum, but then Carver wide receiver Ali McMillian's injury triggered a 10-minute stoppage. 

Carver's Renard Williams (2) celebrates a victory over Lee.

After police officers restrained a Carver fan, Lee's entire team jogged to the corner of the end zone and then to the locker room. The mood eventually settled. McMillian was responsive as he was carted off the field, and police released the fan.  

On the sidelines, coaches told their teams to remain calm. Gatson was distracted, he said. He was raised with McMillian and was worried. He clung to an assistant coach's words, "play for your brother," so he did, he said. 

Minutes after the restart, Gatson ran for the go-ahead score, diving past the goal line. Lee's final drive fell inches short a few possessions later when a quarterback scramble failed to convert a fourth down.

The officials needed a measurement in front of the Carver sideline to check the spot. And when a referee signaled a turnover on downs, Carver players leapt in the air. One waved goodbye to the Lee crowd.

"We did a phenomenal job of keeping our composure," Carver coach James Thompson said. " ... I was proud of our guys for staying clean."