Carencro High School may have been punching up in terms of classification, but the Bears looked every bit a heavyweight competitor in a 16-0 victory against West Monroe in the season opener.
Heading into Friday night’s contest in Rebel Stadium, West Monroe was 15-0 in games played against Class 4A competition since 2005, but Carencro had the experience and bodies in the trenches needed to knock that trend.
“We told our team to take the next step, we have to beat teams like this,” Carencro head coach Tony Courville said. “The defense, to shut this team out, I’m at a loss for words.”
Carencro entered the matchup with a heavily touted quarterback Tavion Faulk (Kevin Faulk’s nephew) and University of Louisiana-Lafayette commit Kendrell Williams, who rushed for 1,935 yards a season ago.
That didn’t seem to matter in the early goings, though. Actually, the Rebels had the Bears offense going in reverse. Senior Aiden Bellot recorded two tackles for loss on what should have been a three-and-out for West Monroe, however, a roughing the punter penalty extended what ultimately turned out to be a 56-yard scoring drive for Carencro.
“I’m responsible for that first touchdown,” West Monroe head coach Jerry Arledge said. “I went to try to block it, and I shouldn’t have because we haven’t worked on it nearly enough.”
Faulk converted a 4th-and-2 from the 16-yard line before finding Ryan Perry on a 12-yard pass to take the 6-0 advantage on the Bears’ opening drive. And as far as scoring went in the first half, that was it. The rest of the half consisted of penalties and miscues, sure, but for the most part, these two teams slugged it out in the trenches.
“We knew we had to be physical on both sides of the ball,” Courville said. “You can think about it. You can talk about it. But to actually do it? We’re very aware of what they do over here. It’s a surprise. It's a pleasant surprise.”
The Rebels defense settled back in on the ensuing series when another senior named Aidan (Swanner) recorded his own tackle for loss to get the Bears off schedule.
As for the Bears defense, Carencro entered this matchup loaded with veteran players like senior linebacker Dylan Smith and Tulane commit Bailey Despanie in the secondary. Not to mention 10 of the Bears defensive starters were seniors.
So it shouldn’t come as a huge surprise the Bears more than held their own against the Rebels. In fact, West Monroe had negative three yards at the end of the first quarter. And the second quarter wasn’t much better with 18 additional yards. Three Rebel three-and-outs and only one first down to show for it in the first half made for a large disparity in time of possession. Carencro held the ball for 17 minutes in the first half.
Most of West Monroe’s offensive woes resided in protection up front, but offensive coordinator Glenn Hunt said he saw the Rebels improve in the second half.
“I told our O-line that’s why we grind you at practice,” Hunt said. “We’re going to be fine. We’ll get there. I promise you this offensive line will be a good one when it’s all said and done.”
What kept West Monroe hanging around were two key fourth down stops near the red zone. A gang of Rebel defenders stopped Faulk on both occasions, so even though the Bears outgained the Rebels 110 to 21 total yards in the first half, the Rebels trailed by only six at the break.
West Monroe shot out of a cannon to start the second half. A 45-yard kickoff return by Tanner Young followed by a 46-yard run from Derome Williams put West Monroe in scoring position. However a fumbled snap gave the ball right back to Carencro, leading to more offensive woes for the Rebels. West Monroe was limited to just 114 total yards in loss.
The Rebels were 0-for-11 on third down attempts.
Senior quarterback Lane Little completed 5-of-13 passes for 21 yards and an interception. The Rebels also had two fumbles to go along with eight penalties for 72 yards.
Basically whatever could go wrong offensively for the Rebels did.
“We’re young up front and I knew this was going to happen, but I told them, ‘I’m proud of your effort,’” Hunt said. “We’ll stress the little things and get better at pass protection because you saw we had some weapons. We had some deep balls open. We’ve got the speed to hurt some people. We just have to give Lane some protection to throw to people.”
Carencro’s Gavin Royer drilled a 36-yard field goal to put the Bears on top 9-0 in the third quarter before Traylon “Popcorn” Prejean broke loose on a 43-yard score in the fourth quarter.
After the game, Arledge said he knew having inexperience up front was going to be tough to overcome against a veteran team like Carencro, but he also said teams make their biggest jumps between the first and second week. The Rebels will look to get back on the winning track against Evangel in Rebel Stadium Friday night.
“We will improve,” Arledge said. “I just told the kids we won’t lose another ballgame.”