Carroll continues to show it's a team worth watching - by Matt Wixon of The DMN
Southlake Carroll was the national champion the last two years. "Mythical" national champion, of course, because high school playoffs don't cross state boundaries, and the State Farm MasterCard High School Bowl presented by Pizza Hut isn't yet on the schedule.
But even if Carroll is just a mythical national champ, it's a factual national power. Thursday night was the latest proof of that.
Carroll (2-0) sent Evangel Christian, known for playing the top teams across the nation, back to Louisiana with a humbling 43-16 loss at Dragon Stadium. Carroll's third nationally televised game in three years was like the first two: entertaining for the fans in green and a blue experience for the visitors.
Thursday's game was so lopsided, that by halftime, maybe before halftime, much of the TV audience was flipping the channel. And Evangel Christian (0-2), which two weeks ago hung tough in a 24-14 loss to state-ranked Lufkin, was looking up for heavenly intervention.
Things were looking up for the state's top-ranked Class 5A team, which won its 34th straight game. The offense was dazzling, the defense was stifling, and the banner referring to Carroll's tradition – "we protect it, you respect it" – was as appropriate as ever.
By halftime, Carroll's defense was outscoring Evangel, 2-0. The offense scored the other 32 points in the half, when Carroll quarterback Riley Dodge and his deep pool of receivers shredded the Evangel defense for 211 yards and three touchdowns. The Evangel defensive backs are probably suffering from whiplash today after looking back at the Carroll receivers pulling in passes.
It was that kind of half for Carroll and that kind of game. The kind of game that, although it looked like first-string against third-string most of the night, could get Carroll ready for a playoff run in two months.
"With this as a TV game, it adds electricity," Carroll coach Todd Dodge said before the game. "Hopefully, if we can continue on and we make a good run in the playoffs, then we'll be in this atmosphere again, and our kids can reflect back on it."
They'll look back fondly, that's for sure. But it was more than Carroll's knockout Thursday night that proved its heavyweight status. Just having another nationally televised game at home showed that its national presence is second to none right now.
You want to play Carroll, fine. Coach Dodge said this week that his team will play anyone.
But his team isn't hitting the road.
"My whole take is, with due respect to all the other programs, I'm not going to take my kids out of state to play," Dodge said. "I just can't see how going to Louisiana or all the way to California to play is good for my kids."
Dodge has already agreed to another made-for-TV game next year against Concord (Calif.) De La Salle. That team will have to make a long trip to prove its mettle against a national power.
Carroll, on the other hand, won't have to travel much farther than Thursday night. The game is scheduled for SMU's Ford Stadium.
The big games, at least against out-of-state teams, will be on Carroll's terms. That's one of the spoils of being a big-time program.
"It's not like we can't find someone to play," Dodge said. "I've got good competition five miles in every direction."
Better than Thursday night's competition, I would imagine. Or for future Carroll opponents, here's a scary thought:
Maybe Carroll is even better than we imagined.