How opening play of game set tone for Carver to defeat Sidney Lanier

Nick Alvarez
Montgomery Advertiser

The ball hit a shin and bounced off the turf. From the sidelines, G.W. Carver coach James Thompson knew it could lead to a score. 

It was the opening play on Thursday night, Carver facing Sidney Lanier at Cramton Bowl. The Poets kicked off to Carver's up-man and they knocked it to the ground. Both teams slowed, readjusting their path to the ball before Carver's Juwon Gatson scooped it up and found a hole. 

The inflatable tunnel that the Wolverines sprint out of before games hadn't fully deflated yet. The smoke from a fog machine barely cleared. But 18 seconds into the contest, Gatson crisscrossed his way across the goal line giving the Wolverines a lead they wouldn't relinquish. 

Carver (5-3, 4-2) further solidified a four-way tie in Class 6A, Region 2 with its 17-0 win over Sidney Lanier (3-5,1-5). Neither offense moved the ball, there were multiple turnovers and a few dropped interceptions. One week after Carver's big loss to Eufaula, the Wolverines handled the Poets by simply committing fewer mistakes.

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"We were just really clicking," Thompson said. "We knew what they had and what they were gonna do ahead of time. ... We executed it well."

It was a game of missed opportunities. Lanier pinned Carver to the one-yard line on a put early in the first quarter. On Carver's first offensive play, Marquarious Moore took a read-option keeper upfield for 23 yards. A few plays later, Carver completed a slant, fumbled and recovered its own fumble for a 27-yard gain. Later in the possession, Lanier dropped an interception. 

Lanier, a team that's scored more than 10 points just twice this season, had a goal-to-go situation late in the first half with a chance to make it a one-score game. The Poets offense went backward, committing a facemask penalty resulting in a 4th-and-32. 

Both defenses were committed to stopping the run. They packed the line of scrimmage and left one-on-one matchups on the outside. Neither took advantage, but Carver found intermittent success handing the ball to Karl Ligon. In the second quarter, Ligon dove up the middle behind his offensive line into the end zone. 

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Carver's defense was led by lineman Renard Williams. The junior played at Lanier last year and relished a chance to beat his old team with his "new home." He slid off blockers and yanked blue jerseys to the ground. Lanier only had the ball in the red zone once. 

On the last drive of the game, Lanier gained two first downs off Carver penalties. But with just over three minutes remaining, the Wolverines finally secured an interception and ran the clock out. 

"It's a great way (to win)," Williams said. "We had mistakes here and there but we kept our heads on the next play."

At halftime, a man placed a four-foot-tall "West Side Classic" trophy down behind the end zone. When the final buzzer sounded, he started carrying it toward the Carver sideline. He walked past Lanier players and coaches, hovered around midfield and let white jerseys pose with the trophy.