SESSER — Carrollton put 37 points on the board. Junior quarterback Hunter Flowers completed 19-of-31 passes for 297 yards and two touchdowns in the Hawks 37-14 win over Sesser-Valier-Waltonville.
But, when the Hawks gathered at midfield after the game, coach Nick Flowers talked about the defense.
After giving up a pair of touchdowns in the first half, the Hawks stiffened, forcing punts on the first two Sesser-Valier-Waltonville possessions. In addition, Hunter Flowers and Matthew Retherford came up with interceptions that put the Hawks’ offense inside the Red Devils’ 25.
“The second half, I felt like we pretty much controlled the whole game, both sides of the ball,” Flowers said. “With the turnovers, a couple of those interceptions, they were just huge. We had a couple three-and-outs where we made them punt and a bad snap they had, that’s all momentum changing. I feel like we won the momentum game today.”
The biggest momentum change probably occurred on Carrollton’s first possession of the second half. The Hawks led 16-14 at half, then forced the Red Devils to punt on their first possession.
Caiden Snow’s punt put the Hawks at their own 16, but Carrollton covered 84 yards on just six plays. The big play was a 41-yard pass and throw from Flowers to all-state receiver Nathan Walker. Flowers finished off the drive with a one-yard run.
That score gave Carrollton a 24-14 lead and S-V-W never recovered. The hole got deeper as two Hawks’ interceptions fed the momentum.
“We had to play from behind, so we had to take a few chances we didn’t want to take,” said Sesser-Valier-Waltonville coach John Shadowens. “It was so important to score that opening drive of the second half. We didn’t, but they did. Now, you’re down two scores and we can’t play the way we want to. That turned the game around right there.”
The Hawks put S-V-W squarely behind the eight-ball on their next possession, scoring on a 67-yard screen pass to Byron Holmes. Carrollton kept that drive alive by converting a fourth-and-three at its own 26.
“They were up 10 at the time,” Shadowens said. “I thought, ‘Man, that is risky.’ We saw it on film. That’s the style of ball they play in that conference. They think, ‘Hey, if we don’t score here, we’re going to score again.’ That’s the way they play, so hat’s off to them.”
The Carrollton offense put pressure on the entire Red Devils’ defense. Flowers proved to be deft at throwing beneath the coverage and he also burned S-V-W with long throws.
“We had questions watching the films we had, we didn’t know if they had the patience to throw underneath and march down the field,” Shadowens said. “We gave them the bubbles early, well they had the patience to do it. They did it and they executed well. We had to make some adjustments and take that away and it opened up other things for them.”
S-V-W led early in the game when Reid Basso found Tanner Eubanks all alone behind the Carrollton defense seven minutes into the game. Carrollton tied the game on a four-yard Flowers run later in the quarter.
The Hawks took the lead for good early in the second when Walker torched the defense for a 46-yard score. Eubanks caught his second touchdown pass with just under four seconds to play in the half, but the PAT failed, leaving Carrollton with a 16-14 halftime advantage.
“I was very happy with winning that first half,” Flowers said. “I thought we went in with some momentum. Then, ultimately, the second half I felt we kind of wore them out the second half. They were taking a lot out of themselves running the ball as much as they were. When we got the ball back, we really took what they were giving us.”
The loss ended the Red Devils’ season at 7-3.