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2019 Record: 6-4

Quote of the Summer: “I feel like people have to respect the body of work we’ve put in. The first year we went 2-8, and then last year we beat some people that people didn’t expect us to beat.” — Tank Washington, Carroll head coach

Overview: Consider District 2-3A woke. Obviously that terminology has carried a different connotation throughout the year of 2020, but when it comes to football in Class 3A, Carroll won’t catch any team sleeping this fall.

The Bulldogs were an afterthought last year, but a blowout win against Wossman and upset victory against Union Parish forced everyone to pay attention to the Bulldogs.

Carroll was humbled in a 28-0 loss to Sterlington, but the Bulldogs entered that matchup with an opportunity to win District 2-3A. The Panthers kept their unblemished district record in tact, and Carroll drew an unfortunate first-round foe, as Clemson star running back Travis Etienne’s brother, Trevor Etienne, and Jennings upset Carroll in a 34-26 dogfight. No. 23 Jennings, by the way, upset several teams in a run that ended in the Class 3A State Championship Game.

After a mass exodus of contributors — all six First-Team All-District performers on offense graduated — what is Carroll’s ceiling in 2020?

Offense: For all the fresh faces on offense, it has to put a smile on the faces of Carroll’s coaching staff that Antonio Hollins is not one of them. Hollins returns after a full year as the starter at quarterback, and Washington is expecting big things after Hollins threw for 1,010 yards and rushed for another 625 yards a season ago. Hollins totaled 24 touchdowns with only six interceptions as a junior.

“He’s been looking good so far,” Washington said. “We’re expecting him to continue where he left off last year. He’s going to lead our offense, so we’re making sure that he’s being vocal out there with the guys. If we’re in a bad call, he can check out of it.”

Standing next to Hollins in the backfield will be sophomore Amareya Greenley, who Washington said ran the ball well in junior varsity action a year ago.

At wide receiver, two-year starter E’Montae Brown and junior transfer Kendrick Carter have had strong summers for the Bulldogs, while seniors Jo’Davion Powell and Markee Hatfield have turned enough heads to see the field in 2020.

The offensive line does not return any starters from last year’s squad, which is a bit of a concern for Washington and his staff.

“We’ll be young up there,” Washington said. “We have (senior) Quiwan McNair, who played the year before last year. He’ll start for us at center this year, and there will be young guys around him.”

Freshman Moses Shaw, sophomore Michael Tillman, and juniors Thomas Little and Tyland Boughton should occupy the spots around McNair at center.

Defense: While the offense is lacking its All-District performers, the defense certainly boasts a heavy hitter at linebacker in First-Team standout Derrick Connor. Conner recorded 85 tackles and forced three turnovers as a junior a year ago.

“He’s going to be the leader of our defense, and we’ll surround him with guys who will look to match his production,” Washington said.

Sophomore Latravion Christian and junior Zackeil Arrington will get some playing time, while two-time starter Bobby Williams will anchor the outside linebacker position with sophomore Payton Harris opposite him.

Up front, Second-Team District 2-3A performer Jy Brown returns as a sophomore pass rusher, while sophomores Davion Edwards and Donnell Myles round out that position.

On the backend, seniors Johntavis Jenkins and Oshun Bryant will do the heavy lifting.

The Bulldogs allowed 35 combined points to Richwood, Wossman and Union a season ago before falling to Sterlington in a winner-take-all district showdown.

District outlook: Washington knows what it’s like to be on both sides of a beatdown in District 2-3A, and entering his third year as the Bulldogs head coach, he’s hoping to stay on the side that’s dishing out the punishment. His overview of the district is pretty simple, though.

“Sterlington has had the lead in the district since they’ve been in it,” Washington said. “Union is always strong in the district, and makes deep runs. The rest of us get into the playoffs, so it’s still going to be one of the toughest districts in 3A. “

It’s hard to argue against. The question for the Bulldogs specifically, though, is whether or not Carroll can build off of momentum gained last season, and whether or not Washington is building a program that can simply reload and contend for the title like Sterlington and Union have done for multiple seasons.

Award-winning sports writer for columns and features since joining the field in 2013. As the first-ever featured columnist of the month at Bleacher Report, Martin cut his teeth with online media before joining the newspaper business in 2014.

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