The task ahead of the Clover Blue Eagles was clear Friday night.
All Brian Lane’s club needed to do was play 48 minutes of solid football, and it would bring home its first undefeated regular season in modern program history.
The Blue Eagles would need just a minute and a half to prove their point.
Gabe Carroll threw four first-half touchdowns to four different receivers, en route to a convincing 45-10 Clover victory over Fort Mill to close the regular season.
“I feel great,” said Lane after the game. “Our guys played well tonight, and played well for four quarters.”
Clover (10-0, 4-0) jumped out to an early lead, as Carroll capped a one-play, 27-yard opening drive following a recovery on a punt snap miscue, finding Zacch Davis to put the Blue Eagles ahead, 7-0. The senior then connected with Blackmon Huckabee on the ensuing drive to extend the lead to 14, with Davis returning a punt 73 yards as the first quarter neared its close.
Jaylin Lane hauled in a 64-yard touchdown catch as the second quarter began, growing the Blue Eagle advantage to 28. The catch and run advanced Lane past the 1,000-yard mark for the season.
Darius Bowser then took a shovel pass 19 yards to the paint to cap a three-plus minute drive and put the Blue Eagles ahead, 35-0, nearing the interval.
David Hall took a two-yard run into the end zone to cap Clover’s 10-play, 3:19 opening drive of the second half, making the score 42-0. Clover then made wholesale changes on offense, allowing some of its younger players to see some game action.
Fort Mill (1-9, 0-4) entered the red zone for the first time all evening as the fourth quarter began, but managed just two yards on three downs. Ben Rich helped the Yellow Jacket drive prove fruitful, though, knocking home a 35-yard field goal to cap the drive and put Fort Mill on the board.
Clover got a 42-yard field goal from Christian Erwin with just over five minutes remaining to provide its final margin. Fort Mill then turned in a drive that lasted just 57 seconds, punctuated by an eight-yard touchdown run from T Reaves. The Yellow Jackets could draw no further, though, as Clover’s players and fans celebrated their Region 3-5A title as time elapsed.
“This is new territory for them (the players),” Lane said. “That’s good, in some cases, because now, all they can do is trust each other and trust what we’re doing. We’re just going to keep on working hard.”
Lane reminded his players after the game that, while they turned in the historic regular season, one play could change the course of their season in the playoffs.
“We’re preparing because we’re working hard,” stated Lane. “At the end of the day, I want them to know we’ve got to play four quarters (in every game). If they can believe we’ve got to play four quarters, we’ll be alright, and we’ll see what the outcome is on that.”
Carroll played just the first half, but finished the night 9-of-12 for 181 yards, adding four touchdowns. Lane caught three Carroll throws for 82 yards, putting a great closing chapter on an outstanding senior season. The Blue Eagles neared 400 yards of total offense, while being afforded the opportunity to play a number of younger players to get them ready for the playoffs.
“You want to get those guys (the starters) in, and get them going,” said Lane. “It was great to get those young guys in. We got our young guys in there to get some reps, and that’s kind of what you want to do (in) building for the future.”
Liam Walsh turned in a solid rushing effort for the Yellow Jackets, carrying 10 times for 37 yards. Reaves contributed the Yellow Jackets’ lone touchdown, one of several strong runs he provided on the evening.
Clover hosts a first-round playoff game next week. That game is slated to begin at 7:30pm.
Fort Mill’s season has concluded.