BEDFORD, Texas -- A Class 5A Division I Region I semifinal is nothing new to the Southlake Carroll football program, and its players tend to play like they have been through the playoffs a time or two.
Carroll relied on its experience to regain focus in the second half to rally for a 21-17 win over Arlington Bowie on Saturday night.
“I would say we weren’t focused,” Carroll head coach Hal Wasson said. “We weren’t focused on us and for us to stay focused on what we can control, and that’s our mindset -- technique, tempo and throwing and catching. We knew it at [the] half.”
Bowie started fast, opening the scoring on a 32-yard run in the first quarter by Russell Hansbrough.
Late in the second, Bowie quarterback Kolby Listenbee scored on a run from 15 yards out to extend the lead to 14-0.
Bowie’s speed on offense posed a problem for Carroll, Dragons linebacker Will Davis said. Carroll’s defense constantly over-pursued Bowie’s rushers, leaving the middle of the field open for runners to cut back, Davis said.
“We were trying to give in to their speed and it was scaring us in the first half,” Davis said. “We came back in the second half and slowed ourselves down so they wouldn’t have those cut-back lanes.”
Carroll gained some momentum before the half, scoring a touchdown with nine seconds remaining on a 54-yard reception by Sabian Holmes.
“We weren’t playing to our tempo and our speed and we came up and made a play,” Wasson said. “Fortunately for us, Kenny Hill and Sabian stepped up and made the play.”
That tempo carried over into the second half, culminating in a quick touchdown on a 5-yard run by A.J. Ezzard early in the second half that cut Carroll's deficit to 17-14.
Bowie’s defense gave Carroll a helping hand on what would turn out to be the game-winning drive for the Dragons.
Wasson decided to take points off the board after a roughing the kicker penalty. The move paid off when Hill ran into the end zone from the 1-yard line to put Carroll up 21-17.
Carroll’s defense held tough from there, forcing two Bowie turnover-on-downs in the fourth quarter.
“Our mindset was ‘What would you do to be able to play another week,’ ” Davis said. “And our defense and whole team really laid it on the line in the second half.”
Carroll must now prepare for a hot Arlington Martin team that took down Euless Trinity on Saturday. The teams will play in the region finals at 6 p.m. on Saturday at SMU’s Ford Stadium.
Facing the team speed of Bowie can only help in their preparation for future matchups.
“It prepares us for fast speedy teams down the road,” Davis said. “And if we can just keep it up, we’ll be able to handle it.”