High School Football Sand Rock shuts out Collinsville in first meeting since 1997
SAND ROCK – Like so many other current Sand Rock and Collinsville football players, all Wildcat senior running back Braden Carver had heard is how big a rivalry Sand Rock and Collinsville Panthers used to have.
The current players weren’t even born the last time the schools met on the field in 1997.
But on Friday night at Sand Rock, Carver added his own chapter in a renewed rivalry. He ran for 267 yards and three touchdowns on 18 carries and also broke a scoreless tie in the second quarter with his 35-yard touchdown catch from junior quarterback Jansen Alexander.
Sand Rock’s defense took care of the rest in a 34-0 victory that secured the Wildcats’ first home playoff game since 2008.
“All we heard was talk growing up, so being able to live it, being able to play in the atmosphere, it’s unbelievable. It feels great,” Carver said.
It was also the second shutout post- ed by the Wildcat defense this season. Sand Rock (6-2, 5-1 Class 2A, Region 6) earned its first shutout of the season at Ider in a 27-0 victory back on Sept. 9.
The loss marked the second straight week Collinsville (4-4, 3-3) has been blanked on the scoreboard. The Panthers lost last week to topranked Fyffe 47-0.
Prior to the last two weeks, the last time the Panthers were shut out two consecutive weeks was 2003 (27-0 at Geraldine Sept. 26 and 34-0 to Cedar Bluff Oct. 3).
“Our defense played lights out,” Sand Rock coach Steven Chesnut said. “We got lucky a time or two. They (Collinsville) got behind us and they just didn’t connect. I told my guys at halftime they were one play from breaking it. They’ve got so much talent on the offensive side, but our defense played great. Coach (Jeff) Norris had a great game plan for them. Whatever he says I’m like, ‘OK, that’s good enough for me.’”
Actually, both teams’ defenses stole the show before Carver began running wild in the second half.
Sand Rock had the game’s first scoring opportunity, driving down to the Collinsville 4-yard line on its first offensive possession of the game. The Panther defense stiffened, forcing the Wildcats had to settle for senior Josh Sarratt’s 30-yard field goal attempt with 4:23 left in the opening quarter. Sarratt’s attempt missed the mark, keeping the game scoreless.
Collinsville (4-4, 3-3) put together a substantial drive to open the second quarter, marching all the way down to the Sand Rock 8. However, the Wildcat defense returned the favor, forcing the Panthers to settle for junior Isiah Avila’s 25-yard field goal try with 6:13 left in the first half. Avila’s kick was also no good.
Carver and Alexander helped the Wildcats move down to the Collinsville 27 on their ensuing possession, but Panther senior lineman Steven Wash killed the drive with a diving interception. Three plays later, however, Sand Rock junior defensive back Austin Blackstock picked off Collinsville senior quarterback Grant Jones, giving the Wildcats the ball back at their own 44 with 2:51 remaining in the first half.
This time, the Wildcat offense capitalized on Carver’s 35-yard touchdown reception from Alexander. Sarratt’s extra point gave Sand Rock a 7-0 lead with 1:59 to go before halftime.
Sand Rock’s defense forced Collinsville to punt on its next possession, and once again, the Wildcats were driving with less than a minute left in the first half. A 28-yard scramble by Alexander set the Wildcats up at the Collinsville 32, but two plays later, Alexander threw his second interception of the game – this time to the awaiting arms of Panther freshman defensive back Kaleb Jones that essentially ended the half.
“We just couldn’t find our rhythm (in the first half),” Chesnut said. “We got down there three or four times in the first half and just kind of sputtered – a penalty here or a dropped ball there, but we’ve been a good second-half team all year long. It just goes back to the work they do in the off-season – the grinding and grinding and grinding and finishing.”
Carver began to carve up Collinsville’s defense from the opening kickoff of the second half. It was his return of 50 yards that set the Wildcats up at the Collinsville 40. From there, Carver had two runs of 14 yards, a 3-yard run, and a 9-yard touchdown to put Sand Rock in front 14-0 with 10:13 remaining in the third quarter.
“They stung us pretty quick (in the second half), and I guess it took a little air out of our balloon,” Collinsville coach Ernie Willingham said. “I didn’t feel like we played very hard after that. They’ve got a really good team all the way around – big and strong and physical. (Carver’s) hard to tackle one-on-one. He’s just a good player.”
Collinsville managed to put together another substantial drive on its ensuing possession, but the drive ended with an interception by Sand Rock junior linebacker Brett Jackson near the goal line. Jackson returned the ball all the way to the Wildcat 45. One play later, Carver dashed 55 yards for another score, putting Sand Rock in front 21-0.
Carver ran for a 9-yard touchdown with 7:44 to go in the fourth. Alexander scored on a 23-yard run with 5:15 left for the final.
Alexander finished the game with 94 yards on 11 carries with a touchdown. He was also 4-of-12 through the air for 65 yards and a touchdown.
“We were nervous, no doubt, but you can’t lay down against a team like that,” Alexander said. “Our O-line blocked great, but the back half of their defense is quick. When the pocket breaks down, you’ve got to go.”
Grant Jones led Collinsville by completing 11-of-24 pass attempts for 54 yards. Kaleb Jones had four catches for 42 yards.
“It was a difference of two halves,” Willingham said. “We didn’t come out in the second half and play ball. I don’t think we played hard enough.”
Both Willingham and Chesnut said they’re glad both teams are playing each other again.
“You saw how the crowd was. Sand Rock made a lot of money tonight,” Willingham said. “I played in this game four times, and it’s been 19 years since we’ve played one. I’m tickled with playing them again. The parents, grandparents and everyone in the community are fired up about playing. I just hope we can make a better showing than this from now on.”
“It was special,” added Chesnut. “You’ve got families on both sides who have kids or grandkids, people who go to church together. There are good people in both places. It’s just a good time. We came out on the good end this year, but next year may be totally different. The records don’t matter in a game like this. You’ve just got to go play and execute.”
Sand Rock junior quarterback Jansen Alexander, right, tries to escape the grasp of Collinsville’s Steven Wash on a run Friday night.