If the formula for winning in the playoffs is to run the ball and play sound defense, Carolina Forest followed that to a T on Thursday, defeating Cane Bay 42-7 in its Class 5A postseason opener.
The Panthers (9-1) rode a strong first half to the victory, bruising the Cobras’ defense with running back David Legette. The senior piled up 172 rushing yards and four scores in the first two quarters, helping build a 35-7 lead at the break for the home team. With the yardage, Legette broke 1,000 yards on the season for the third year in a row.
“We’re a team that tries to be 50-50 with our play calling,” said head coach Marc Morris. “You can’t be one dimensional in the playoffs and expect to beat the teams that are in the bracket. We expect a lot out of David, Raquan (Brown), and Mo (Belfield) to keep our offense balanced and they did a great job of that tonight.”
In a game moved up by the threat of inclement weather overnight on Thursday possibly rendering the field unplayable, Carolina Forest showed a short week wouldn’t slow down the juggernaut offense the Panthers have displayed all season.
“This was a situation where we wanted to put our kids and Cane Bay’s kids on the best possible field we could put them on,” Morris said. “We felt like the amount of rain they’re calling for over the next eight or nine hours wouldn’t put the kids in the best situation to play a game. The kids concentrated all week and really had a great mindset coming into this game.”
Early in the first quarter, Legette started the scoring with a 27-yard run on the first possession for Carolina Forest, then scored again just over four minutes later from 17-yards away. In between Legette’s scores, the Panther defense stifled a strong rushing attack that has powered Cane Bay all season, forcing back-to-back punts in the first quarter and blowing up a fourth-down try to start the second.
“Give our kids and coaches credit, they were facing an offense that we don’t see very often and is tough to stop,” Morris said. “They focused and did a great job. Anytime you see somebody that does something a little bit different, it’s a challenge for your team. For the most part, in this day and age, you see a lot more of a spread offense, so it was important for our guys to play well (against the different style of offense).”
It took nearly three complete quarters for Mason Garcia to find the end zone through the air, connecting with Kyle Watkins on a 21-yard play. Garcia, a Touchstone Energy Bowl North-South All-Star that was honored in the pregame, has powered the Panther offense with his arm and legs all season. But, when the Panther signal-caller missed some early connections, the running game picked up its leading man.
“It’s great to know that I can hand the ball off to any of our backs and they’re going to pick up chunks for us,” Garcia said. “I have so much faith in those guys and our offensive line that they are going to get the job done and keep us moving in the right direction. We came out and executed our plays really well, we carried that over from our practices this week and made great adjustments in the game. As a team, we came out with a great win.”
Carolina Forest will await the winner of Friday’s No. 3 West Ashley at No. 2 River Bluff and will host in the second round of the playoffs.
CB – 0 7 0 0 – 7
CF – 14 21 7 0 – 42
CF – David Legette 27-yard run (Cole Poirier kick good) 6:53
CF – Legette 17-yard run (Poirier kick) 2:05
CF – Legette 44-yard run (Poirier kick) 10:31
CF – Raquon Brown 5-yard run (Poirier kick) 9:26
CB – Kei’sean Smalls 5-yard run (Jackson Presley kick good) 2:39
CF – Legette 27-yard run (Poirier kick) 1:12
CF – Mason Garcia 21-yard pass to Kyle Watkins (Poirier kick) 1:31
CB – Mitchell Brown – 4-9-30-0-1
CF – Mason Garcia – 12-19-98-1-0
CB – A.J. Miles – 4-32
CF – David Legette – 11-172 4TDs
CB – A.J. Miles - 1-10
CF – Kyle Watkins – 5-50 TD
CB – None
CF – Adam Janack – 1-6