OLIVE HILL – The brown bog in the middle of West Carter’s football field did not stop Nathan Conley.
No, Russell’s junior running back navigated the thick mud rather nicely. Friday’s 27 carries for 186 yards helped give the Red Devils a 22-14 win.
Conley’s numbers glittered like a Las Vegas night spot’s marquee, but senior Malakai Anderson kept Russell in the game. He ran for two touchdowns and intercepted an Orry Perry pass. Russell gained 238 yards on the ground, which exponentially made up for just six through the air. Red Devils coach T.J. Maynard wanted better lead-blocking despite the sloppiness.
“Hats off to West Carter; I thought their kids played tremendous,” Maynard said. “But for some reason we didn’t get moving up front.”
West Carter finished with 166 total yards, but only 43 rushing. The Comets had one major defensive highlight: senior linebacker Ethan Jordan made 24 tackles.
Comets coach Daniel Barker called his team one of the toughest he’s seen.
“We’re not physically imposing,” Barker said. “ … We’ve seen a lot of power-rushing teams; we’ve seen that all year, and our guys stand up toe-to-toe with it and battle and make plays.”
Friday started with something you don’t often see. West Carter (7-3) was the beneficiary when a punt snap sailed over Russell punter Gabe Floyd’s head and into the end zone for a safety.
Apparently awakened, the Red Devils (8-2) scored on Anderson’s 3yard run over left guard late in the second quarter. Conley set it up — a 45-yard run three plays prior.
After the Red Devils and Comets exchanged three-and-out possession, West Carter retook the lead when Perry found Dominic Hinton for 22 yards, a touchdown and an 8-7 lead.
Russell opened the fourth quarter with Conley’s 3-yard scoring run with 6:54 to go and followed it with Anderson’s 7-yard touchdown some four minutes later.
West Carter was not done. Perry’s pass deflected off a Russell defender and into Jackson Bond’s hands for a 50-yard score with 1:38 left.
While the Red Devils are hosting East Carter in first round of the Class 3A playoffs next Friday, he Comets stay home with Bath County in first round of the Class 2A postseason.