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West Carter beat Cardinals 35-14: Comets take first seed in district with victory over Martin County

By: Jeremy D. Wells
Carter County Times

Sports are about bursts of athleticism, speed, and graceful movement, sure. But they are just as much about endurance and perseverance. That truth was never more apparent than on Friday night, when the West Carter Comets came back in the second half, from a seven-point deficit, to not only hold their opponents scoreless but to score four more touchdowns for a 21 point victory over the Martin County Cardinals. 

The Comets started out hot, with a touchdown from Cole Crampton in the opening minutes of the game. But the Cardinals followed that up with a touchdown of their own from Kolby Sparks at the five minute mark, and shut down any further scoring attempts from West Carter in the first half. 

The Comets picked up yardage slowly and steadily through the rest of the quarter, but between the Cardinals defense and holding penalties, they weren’t able to make a delivery to the endzone. 

Dawson Mills scored the Cardinals second touchdown with less than five minutes left on the clock in the first half. After taking possession on their own 31 yard line, Mills carried the ball to a first down on the Comets’ 30 on a huge run down the West Carter sideline until he was forced out of bounds by Blake McGlone. After that the Comets made Martin County work for every yard, but the defense wasn’t strong enough to stop Mills from scoring his touchdown, taking the score to 7-14 on Bobby Hale’s second good kick. 

With two and a half minutes left in the half, the Comets took possession on their own 44, but after a pair of incomplete passes – including a possible interception stopped by Isaac Bond – the Comets ended the half down by seven. 

Whatever coach Daniel Barker said to them at halftime must have lit a fire under them, because the Comets came back in the second half with the kind of intensity promised by that first touchdown of the night. That doesn’t mean the Cardinals laid down and gave the game to West Carter though. Both teams made the other fight for every yard gained, sometimes inching forward one and two yards at a time, but in a game of attrition the Comets’ endurance won the day. 

After taking over on downs, on the 44 yard line, the team was called for holding. That resulted in the Comets being second and 22 on their own 32 yard line. 

On the next play, though, Crampton broke out for a 68 yard rushing touchdown for the Comets, taking the score to 13-14, with Sam Jones earning the lead on a two-point conversion. 

Going into the fourth quarter, the Comets piled on the points to extend their lead. Crampton picked up another touchdown for West Carter, his third of the night, on a pass from quarterback Eli Estepp just three minutes into the quarter. He added a fourth, on a 70-yard rush, after Jones forced a Cardinal fumble recovered for the Comets by Neil Lusher. 

Jackson Bond picked up the two-point conversion on that one, taking the score to 29-14. 

After Bond carried the ball to first and goal on the three yard line, with around two minutes left in the game, Estepp rushed the ball for the final touchdown of the night, and a final score of 35-14. 

Crampton rushed for a total of 232 yards, and received for 68 yards, with three rushing and one receiving touchdown. 

Estepp passed for a total of 92 yards, and rushed for one on his touchdown. 

Isaac Bond connected on the Comets only good extra-point kick for the evening. 

Isaac Bond also led the team in tackles, with 13 assists. Lusher had 11 assists. Bradyn Flener had three solo and five assists, Samuel Rayburn one and seven, Jones five and two, McGlone five and one, Crampton one and three assists, Gavin Adams and Preston Nauman three assists each, Kaden Wilson one and one, Raymond Rayburn, Jake Barker, and Hunter Reffitt had one assist each, and Brent King and Jacob Judd had one solo tackle each.

Barker said he couldn’t be prouder of the team for the way they handled the second half. 

“All the credit goes to the kids,” Barker said. “Nobody was happy at half-time. We’d been kind of punched in the mouth, everybody feeling sorry for themselves, and we just kind of challenged each other; how bad do we want this number one seed in our district. I think our kids’ effort in the second half was just something that… I just can’t say enough good things about it. I’m just so proud of our guys. We had two really good players go out in the first half, and our guys never held their heads. They knew everyone was going to have to play a little more. We couldn’t rest as much. And they just met every challenge tonight. I’m so proud of them.” 

On Crampton, Barker said, “he’s like one of those old-school running backs. He gets stronger and stronger as the game goes on. You saw that in the second half. He had some good runs in the first half, but in the second half he really exerted his will. You know, if you’re going to tackle him, it’s going to hurt. He’s really running the ball physically, and we just love that. There is not enough of that in football today.” 

It isn’t a one man show, though, Barker reminded us. 

“Our senior class, they’ve won since they were in flag football. They’re hard-nosed kids. Maybe around the area everyone doesn’t know each of their names, but they’ve won a lot of football games and they know what it takes. They know they have to be physical. They have to execute. And they just continue to do it.” 

The Comets take their game on the road this Friday, to face the East Ridge Warriors. 

Contact the writer at editor@cartercountytimes.com

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