CAREY — The Carey Panthers kept their undefeated season going, building more state playoff momentum with a sound 72-12 victory over Mackay at home.
Carey only needed one quarter to build a gap that Mackay couldn’t close — 40 points in fewer than nine minutes.
Porter Mecham got the scoring started with two rushing TDs and added another in the second quarter for good measure. Mecham was also responsible for a couple two-point completions.
Carson Simpson’s fumble recovery, a Houston Hennefer quarterback keeper and a 30-yard pass to Kaden Koudelka rounded out the first quarter scoring.
“Opening up that way, it’s a momentum boost for sure,” Hennefer, the Panthers’ senior quarterback, said. “We pride ourselves on scoring right out of the gate, and we did that tonight.”
After a halftime score of 58-12, a running clock was established in the second half. The Panthers still found time to put up two touchdowns, solidifying a sure victory.
Outside of the obvious, building up a big lead allowed head coach Lane Kirkland to give reps to his backups, something he said they’ve done frequently but will still be helpful later in the playoffs.
“Honestly, we’ve been rested pretty well all season long,” he said. “I’d like a little bit more reps with those kids, but when they play, they play fast and aggressive.”
Those same two words – fast and aggressive – are exactly what Hennefer used to explain the team’s motto this year: “Play our game.”
It also helps to have numbers on the sideline. Carey’s history of winning, with three state championships under Kirkland alone, has drawn in a base of over 30 players to the Panther sideline, making them one of the deepest systems in 1A Division II play.
“Every kid loves to play football here,” Kirkland said. “They love to come out and be a part of something great.”
And it’s not just about winning. It’s also about having fun. Between plays, the players joked with each other. Securing that big of a lead allowed David Abrams, a 125-pound sophomore, to enter as a defensive lineman. The Panthers even ended the game on a 40-plus-yard field goal attempt, smiling as they returned to the sideline after it was blocked.
These moments combined with the challenges and game-planning of winning football games, Kirkland said, has helped this group become more than just a collection of players.
“This group is a tight, tight bunch,” he said. “They love each other, they are total brothers and they’ve been cheering for each other since the day we started practice. That’s what it’s all about.”
Carey 72, Mackay 12
Mackay 0 12 0 0 – 12
Carey 40 18 7 7 – 72
C – Porter Mecham 55-yard run (Hilario Ruiz run) 11:11
C – Mecham 2-yard run (Kaden Koudelka pass from Houston Hennefer) 7:27
C – Carson Simpson 42-yard fumble recovery (Mecham pass from Hennefer) 6:14
C – Hennefer 16-yard run (Mecham run) 5:35
C – Koudelka 30-yard pass from Hennefer (Hennefer run) 3:24
C – Mecham 25-yard run (Hennefer run) 10:50
M – Rush (two-point attempt failed) 8:06
M – Pass (two-point attempt failed) 3:47
C – Brigham Parke 6-yard rush (two-point attempt failed) 1:03
C – Safety 0:03
C – Dallin Parke 25-yard reception from Park (Jesus Villanueva XP good) 0:06
C – Carson Simpson 70-yard rush (Villanueva XP good) 10:30