Carolina Forest flexed its offensive muscle on Friday, scoring in bunches in the passing and rushing games to cruise past St. James 56-13.
The Panthers (5-0, 2-0 Region 6-5A) put up 28 points in the opening quarter of action, 21 of which were due directly to the punting game of St. James (0-5, 0-2 Region 6-5A). The Sharks had two long snaps go awry; giving Carolina Forest starting field position in the red zone, and a successful punt attempt was returned 70-yards for a touchdown by Jackson Weatherwax.
“The first quarter, we were able to set the tone for the game and really got out to a fast start,” said Carolina Forest coach Marc Morris. “We capitalized on a couple of miscues they had and then our guys stepped up and made plays to get us in the end zone. When a good bounce happens like that, you’ve got to put touchdowns on the board.”
The Panther offense was far from done on the night, scoring a pair of touchdowns in the second and third quarters to build a 56-7 lead going into the final frame. Quarterback Mason Garcia had a perfect night, completing 14-of-14 passes for 193 yards and three scores. His favorite targets, Weatherwax and Josh Murphy, each caught touchdown passes – with Weatherwax catching two in the first quarter to go along with his punt return touchdown. Running back David Legette added two rushing touchdowns and give way to a stable of running backs to bring the game home.
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“We had a lot of guys touch the ball on offense tonight and make big plays,” Morris said. “We’ve wanted to see a game like this for our offense (coming off the hurricane break). We are in the most important time of the regular season, so we want to be clicking down the stretch. With (Garcia) slinging it around like he did tonight, we looked pretty good.”
For St. James, competing against Carolina Forest was a tough task, but something Tommy Norwood’s team can use to grow moving forward.
“We gave it our best shot out there tonight,” Norwood said. “They really dominated us in the trenches on both sides, so we know we need to hit the weight room a lot harder to even that out. We’ve practiced maybe five or six times since Sept. 10, and those missed practices are critical when you’re trying to rebuild a program. We aren’t going to get there overnight, and missing those valuable reps really hurts a young team like ours.”
Norwood considers the contest a measuring stick game for his program.
“Playing a quality team like Carolina Forest shows us what we are looking to become, a tough, physical team that can do what they want no matter who is lined up against them,” he said. “We saw that (on Monday) against West Florence and again tonight. That’s what we are facing in this region, and until we can do that game in and game out, we will have a tough time against our region. We’ll get there, but there’s a lot of hard work in front of us.”
St. James and Carolina Forest have played regularly during Morris’ tenure as the Panthers’ head coach and he came away from tonight’s game with a renewed respect for the program.
“You can tell that they’re on the way,” he said. “I’ve known Coach Norwood for a long time and I know what he’s looking to build. Playing them each year, I can see what he’s focusing on and the improvements that have already become apparent. That’s a tough football team.”
Next week, Carolina Forest is set to travel to West Florence in an undefeated showdown that has huge region implications. While Morris’ team isn’t ready to talk about that game yet, he did show a slight smile when informed that West Florence defeated Socastee 63-15, setting up next week’s game winner as the frontrunner for the Region 6-5A title.
“We’ve just got to focus on Carolina Forest and what we do well,” he said. “Tomorrow or Sunday we’ll start working on the next opponent and we’ll be ready to play on Friday.”
St. James will play at Conway on Friday.
SJ – 7 0 0 6 – 13
CF – 28 14 14 0 – 56
CF – David Legette 8-yard run (Cole Poirier kick good) 8:43
CF – Mason Garcia 8-yard pass to Jackson Weatherwax (Poirier kick) 7:05
CF – Weatherwax 70-yard punt return (Poirier kick) 4:58
CF – Garcia 23-yard pass to Weatherwax (Poirier kick) 00:08
SJ – Chris Anderson 68-yard run (Miles Herring kick good) 00:00
CF – Garcia 43-yard pass to Josh Murphy (Poirier kick) 10:37
CF – Legette 1-yard run (Poirier kick) 00:21
CF – Jeremy Green 9-yard run (Poirier kick) 8:51
CF – Shane Youngblood 1-yard run (Poirier kick) 00:25
SJ – Berkeley Young 26-yard pass to Ethan White (2-point conversion failed) 7:01
Individual Stat Leaders
Passing: SJ – Berkeley Young 8-19-88-1-1. CF – Mason Garcia 14-14-193-3-0.
Rushing: SJ – Chris Anderson 8-86 TD. CF – Marquavious Collier – 8-39.
Receiving: SJ – Ethan White 4-47 TD. CF – Josh Murphy 6-118 TD.