FOOTBALL: Carroll delighted to welcome North Judson in regional | Sports

Carroll came to life in the fall. It’s not just the football team that’s excited, but the communities supporting the Cougars as Carroll prepares to host North Judson at 7:30 p.m. tonight in a regional Class A game.

“The community has been amazing,” said Carroll freshman coach Blake Betzner. “When I took on this job for the first time, one of the main reasons was my stepfather [former Carroll coach John Hendryx] was here, my wife went to school here. It’s like a second home. But I knew the community was going to be really exciting.

“Just walking through Burlington and Flora, the painted windows and the road signs, it really takes you back to 25 years ago when you saw the spirit of the school. This part was just amazing.

The Cougars are alive in Week 4 of the playoffs, having won the Section 42 final last week against Clinton Prairie. The enthusiasm reminds Betzner of when he was in school in Maconaquah a generation ago.

The nostalgia is rich and warm. The present is lively and immediate. Carroll is 9-3 to 8-3 North Judson. There are no common opponents so the Cougars are preparing for a new experience.

“Practically speaking, they’re laser focused,” Betzner said. “They don’t want us to be done.”

Carroll has gone this far with a racing brand of football and adapting well to a new style of play under the guidance of his new coach. Senior full-back Clay Metzger leads the Cougars offense with 1,745 rushing yards on 214 carries. This equates to 8.15 meters per run. He has 23 touchdowns. Chris Huerta ran for 226 yards and Christian Tillman 206. As a team, Carroll ran for 2,496 yards.

Quarterback Heath Richardson completed 33 of 69 passes for 302 yards and five touchdowns and Huerta is 8 of 23 for 134 yards. Grady Lytle has eight catches for 135 yards, Hunter Simpson has eight for 79 and Jackson Ayers has five catches for 119 yards.

“We handled the ball pretty well,” said Betzner. “We do a good job of getting people moving, getting to the edge, getting into tackles when we need to. We have a little speed and block things very well.

“It’s so different from what they were used to. They used to be a spread [offense]. It was a big transformation… towards a wing-T concept.

Carroll’s progress will clash with North Judson’s recent history of playoff success. The Bluejays have won two section titles in the past four seasons and are 9-3 in 12 playoff games over the past four years.

“It’s just a really good 1A football program,” Betzner said. “They’ve been strong for many years. They have climbed the upper echelons of teams which are always very good. They are used to winning. They are really physical, lead their offense very well, their defense very well, but not a lot of weaknesses when you watch them on film.

“I helped with Winamac [where Hendryx coaches now] Last year. We faced them in a section final so I know them pretty well. It has helped us to know what they are doing and what we are ready for.

North Judson is a heavy racing team that uses a variety of backstrokes. Aligned as a right winger, junior Cheyenne Allen leads the rushing game with 779 yards on 116 carries with a dozen touchdowns. Junior quarterback Aldric Harper has 453 yards on 107 carries and five touchdowns. Four other full backs are between 288 and 166 yards and only one is a senior.

In the air, Harper had 48 of 118 passes for 903 yards. He threw 15 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Allen is the first target with 20 catches for 491 yards and nine touchdowns. Kason Sanchez has eight catches for 114 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

“They are an option power team,” Betzner said. “They’ll be throwing it too. They have a really good player, Cheyenne Allen, and he’s a very good kid and he does a lot of things. The full back, the quarterback, the other winger, they are very good players. There isn’t one they don’t want to give the ball to.

“We have to stop the race and then deal with their attack in the process. “

Middle linebacker Jackson Ayres leads the Cougar defense with 70 tackles including 11 for losses. Defensive end Kody James has 50 tackles and nine tackles for a loss. Solid safety Griffin Viney has 36 tackles and three interceptions, a high for the team.

“We’ve only allowed 14 points at home this year in six games,” Betzner said. “We have to defend them. We have to play our best game defensively.

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