Carroll County’s Alexander Clem runs away from the outstretched arms of Sayre’s Trey Dennis (1) on his way to the end zone during Thursday’s game in Carrollton. (Staff photo by David Campbell)
Carroll County’s Alexander Clem runs away from the outstretched arms of Sayre’s Trey Dennis (1) on his way to the end zone during Thursday’s game in Carrollton. (Staff photo by David Campbell)
Carroll County played perhaps its most disciplined ballgame of the season but were unable to get over the hump to snap its losing streak as the Panthers fell to Sayre 28-13 in a non-district matchup at Panther Field on Thursday night. 

The Panthers have lost four-straight since a season opening win at Ludlow and Thursday's opponent was yet another tough contest on the schedule. Sayre boasts one of the top statistical teams in Class A and stands at 5-0 on the year after its victory.

Despite the loss, Carroll head coach Justin Franklin boasted about what his group was still able to accomplish against a very talented opponent. 

"Outside of a little miscommunication, I'm proud of our guys," Franklin said. "I'm proud of how the guys fought and I thought we lost with class, even in the fourth quarter when things weren't going our way. No personal fouls, no unsportsmanlike conduct, and honestly that's huge for our guys." 

Sayre scored on its first drive of the night on a 21-yard pass from Cole Pennington to Jackson Marshall and led 7-0 after a Robert Farish extra point. The majority of the first half stayed quiet soon after but both teams managed scores just prior to halftime. 

Carroll cut to the game with 3:11 left in the first half on a 19-yard pass from Harrison Felts to Kyle Guenthner but the opportunity to get the ball back in a tie game to start the second half slipped away. The Spartans answered with only 46 seconds left in the half. Pennington again hit Marshall, this time on an 18-yard pass and another Farish extra point allowed Sayre a 14-7 advantage. 

"All week long we talked about our cover zero defense and we were going to be man-to-man all night long," Franklin said of the game plan on defense. "When (Cole) Pennington started scrambling, our guys started baiting on him and we broke coverage. In fact, two touchdowns were because we lost our coverage. For the fourth season now we load up the box so we gamble. Pennington took advantage of it." 

Pennington, a junior who has already received a Division I offer from Marshall, added two more touchdown passes in the second half and both allowed for Sayre to lead by two possessions. The Spartans led 21-6 in the third frame but Carroll closed out with some momentum, scoring on a 6-yard run by Alex Clem but missed the extra point to trail just 21-13 heading into the fourth quarter. 

Sayre's response was a 9-yard loft from Pennington to Ford Webb and the Spartans controlled the clock in the fourth frame with ease. Carroll moved downfield on a handful of plays but failed to again cut the deficit to one possession and make a go at tying or taking a lead in the game. Down by 15, the Panthers were forced to stray away from its run-heavy offense, creating some inconsistency as the passing game continues to try and develop this season. 

"We wanted to try and take some shots downfield tonight, even early on," Franklin said of the offense. "But with two new tackles out there who hadn't been there all season, we had to change some things and tried for that roll out pass. (Harrison) Felts is still coming along. He played in five junior varsity games last year and this is his first season as a varsity quarterback. There's stuff we need to fix with him but that will come with experience." 

Carroll (1-4) gets back to play inside district five next week when they host Owen County next Friday. The Rebels are 0-4 and hosted Walton-Verona on Friday night.