HARLAN, Iowa — Carroll High coach Dennis McCartan wants to make one thing clear.
“You never have Harlan's number — ever, ever,” he said.
It might be difficult for McCartan to convince his senior class of that. After Friday's 14-7 non-district victory at Merrill Field, a handful of the Tiger seniors say they have participated in at least one win over the Cyclones every year since the seventh grade. They won in seventh and eighth grade, in freshman ball, and a few were varsity contributors as sophomores in a win at Harlan. Last year they earned a road win against Harlan in the first round of the playoffs.
Friday's victory makes three straight triumphs at Merrill Field for Carroll. You'd have to do some major searching to find programs who can say they've done that.
“These guys are a special group of seniors,” McCartan said. “They wanted to make sure they finished the deal. That was a big deal to them.”
Carroll, rated fourth in western Iowa (Class 4-A/3-A) by The World-Herald, improved to 3-1 overall. Harlan, rated second in the state in 3-A and second in WI, dropped to 3-1.
“They won in the trenches,” Harlan coach Curt Bladt said. “But geez, we turned it over in the red zone. We get stopped on the 10, we get stopped on the 8. That just can't happen.”
Harlan missed a 40-yard field goal, lost a fumble on first and goal at the 1 and also was stopped on downs after reaching the Tiger 10.
Carroll's defense was equal to the challenge most of the night. Harlan was held to 149 total yards. The reason Harlan had great field position a couple of times was because the Tigers muffed a pair of punts deep in their own territory.
“Defense was huge this game,” Carroll senior linebacker Cody Netusil said. “We knew coming in they were trying to run the ball all over the field on us. We really took pride in stopping the run this week.”
Harlan was hampered with the loss of senior tailback Nate Gettys, who ran for 199 yards last week against Perry but injured an ankle Wednesday in practice and was unavailable. Bladt said that affected the rest of the lineup.
“It limited what we could do with our receivers,” he said. “We had to put a receiver in at running back (Luke Hall). So it bites us one down there. They were covering us man-to-man, and we couldn't get separation.”
Meanwhile, Carroll found success running the ball, especially in the first half. Senior Anthony Beyerink carried 24 times for 171 yards and a touchdown, including 133 in the first half. He said his offensive linemen deserved the credit.
Carroll opened the scoring with a seven-play, 80-yard touchdown drive, all on the ground. Isaac Riesselman had a 25-yard run and Beyerink a 31-yarder, and Beyerink capped it with a 3-yard TD run at the 7:10 mark of the second quarter.
On its next possession, Carroll made it 14-0 when Addison Ross hit Riesselman for a 31-yard touchdown on a well-designed screen pass.
Harlan fought back, and got within 14-7 with some help from the officiating crew. On fourth-and-goal from the Carroll 4, the Tigers appeared to be called for pass interference. A rule change this year does not award an automatic first down in that situation. But Harlan was granted a first-and-goal at the 2. After being stopped for no gain on the next play, Adam Juhl ran in from the 2 to cut it to 14-7 with 5:44 left in the game.
Harlan got it back at its 17 with 2:12 left, but Juhl's pass on fourth and 4 at the Harlan 46 bounced away harmlessly, and Carroll ran out the clock, evening the all-time series at 35-35-4.
With nothing to hang its hat on offensively, Harlan still found a way to climb back into the game. But Bladt hasn't built his legendary program on moral victories.
“We won the second half — big deal,” he said. “That's going to be an 'L' forever.”
Carroll (3-1) ............................ 0 14 0 0—14
At Harlan (3-1) ............................ 0 0 0 7— 7
C: Anthony Beyerink 3 run (Mason Millard kick)
C: Isaac Riesselman 29 pass from Addison Ross (Millard kick)
H: Adam Juhl 2 run (Ethan Knudson kick)
RUSHING: C, Anthony Beyerink 24-171, Isaac Riesselman 4-44, Addison Ross 8-8, Jon Dvorak 3-21, Nate O'Brien 1-3. H, Luke Hall 13-42, Adam Juhl 11-23, Eli Williams 4-16, Allan Hopp 3-6.
PASSING: C, Addison Ross, 5-13-0, 50 yards, 1 TD. H, Adam Juhl 8-27-1, 82 yards.
RECEIVING: C, Isaac Riesselman 2-27, Cody Netusil 1-2, Eli Cleveland 1-13, Peyton Renning 1-8. H, Trey Lansman 3-28, Luke Hall 3-20, Will Lansman 1-10, Eli Williams 1-24.