CARTHAGE — Elijah Whitfield left General Brown during the third quarter of the Section 3 Class A semifinal game between Indian River and Auburn. He, like most of his teammates, had seen enough and began having visions of a Carthage versus Indian River rematch at 8 tonight at the Carrier Dome with the Class A championship on the line.
But while he drove home, Auburn began to mount a comeback that would result in a 61-59 Maroons’ win in double overtime. While it wasn’t the matchup that they anticipated, Whitfield feels the mentality is the same.
“We just really prepare for anyone that’s on the field against us,” Whitfield said. “Whoever steps up and wants to play us, we’ll play them and that’s all there is to it.”
Carthage (9-1) and Auburn (8-2) played each other only two weeks ago on Comets’ field in the final week of the regular season, and Carthage defeated the Maroons in the same fashion they’ve defeated most teams this year, 49-14.
But watching Auburn come back from a 32-point deficit in the second half against Indian River last week showed coach Jason Coffman some things they didn’t see the week before.
“Yes and no. They played with a little bit more urgency obviously against Indian River,” Coffman said. “It was the same stuff we’ve seen, it was stuff we knew they were capable of doing and to be honest with you, we just stopped you from doing some things.”
Auburn’s most dangerous weapon in the semifinal was quarterback Troy Churney. After a lackluster first half, he diced up the Indian River secondary in the second half and finished with 246 passing yards and seven passing touchdowns, tying a Section 3 record.
Carthage didn’t see that level of effectiveness from the quarterback two weeks ago. In week eight, the Comets held Churney to 130 passing yards and zero touchdowns. Both of the Maroons’ scores came on the ground, one of which came in the fourth quarter when the Comets already had a commanding lead.
Now, that was also senior night for the Comets, which just added to the excitement for the game.
“Their quarterback is a solid kid, he moves really well and scrambles and throws the ball really well for his size,” Whitfield, a linebacker, said. “He’s just a different type of quarterback that we’ve seen all year.”
There are lessons to be learned from the semifinal. Carthage, like Indian River, had its way with the Maroons during the regular season — Auburn proved last week just how little those results actually mean.
Meanwhile, Whitesboro taught Carthage a similar lesson, the Comets were just fortunate enough that it didn’t cost them their season.
“We learned last week against Whitesboro. The first time we had a 21-7 game but it ended up 42-7. We got ourself into a 21-14 game last week because we kind of took a break, let off the accelerator a little bit and that’s what happened,” Coffman said. “We know, exactly what they’re capable of, we just have to make sure we execute than we did two weeks ago.”
Carthage beat Whitesboro, 48-28, getting three rushing touchdowns from Fombo Azah and Nick Cavellier.
With the running game being the backbone of the Comets’ offense, the veteran offensive line has played a crucial role in each of the team’s nine games.
“[Auburn] is tough, they’re definitely not a joke,” Gaige Orton said. “They’re some things we have to work on before Friday, and I think we’ll be ready for them again.
“We all know anything can happen at this point and we all know how tough Auburn is. We’re not going into this thinking we’re just going to spank them, it’s a different team in the Dome.”