Going into the fourth quarter, there was a look on the face of every Derby defensive starter.
Players like senior cornerback Dax Benway and senior linebacker Cade Lindsey walked with a swagger as if they knew they couldn’t be beaten. And they weren’t in the Panthers’ 24-6 road win over Bishop Carroll on Friday.
It was the first time in eight years that Bishop Carroll, the reigning 5A state champion, has been held under 10 points.
“It’s just a credit to everybody as a unit,” Lindsey said. “That’s what we do at Derby.”
The Panthers didn’t allow a point in the second half, holding the Carroll offense to 38 rushing yards and 154 through the air. Carroll’s only touchdown came on a second-quarter strike to senior tight end Clay Cundiff, and even that play could have been called short of the goal line.
Last season, Derby reached the Class 6A state championship game and lost. The Panther offense that carried them there.
This season, it’s the defense, and the Panthers proved that Friday.
“Experience is the difference,” Benway said. “When the defense gets in our zone, it’s scary. We’re all best friends. We all know where we’re going to go, when we’re going to do it and how we’re going to do it.”
The Derby defense forced three turnovers, including a blocked punt that Lindsey ran back for a score and an interception from Benway. Carroll senior quarterback Cade Becker hit senior receiver Mason Baalman on a crossing route, and as he went to ground, Benway wrestled the ball away.
It would have been first and goal at the Derby 5. Instead, it was Panther ball and virtually game over.
“From where our defense was to where it is this year, it’s amazing,” Benway said. “Credit to the D-line and the linebackers. They had a hell of a game.”
Carroll (2-2) couldn’t find a rhythm after halftime as Derby (4-0) came out much more aggressively. Panther coach Brandon Clark said he was proud of his team’s effort Friday, beating a team as talented and prestigious as Carroll, but there is more work to be done.
They will have to do it without starting quarterback Grant Adler, who was taken out of the game after the Panthers’ third offensive snap. Adler was holding his left, non-throwing wrist, and after he came off the field he was put in a splint and sling and was taken to the locker room. He did not return to the sideline.
So with backup quarterback senior Hunter Igo in, Derby’s offense still put up over 250 yards and 17 points. Clark said his team will enjoy this one.
“What’s football without enjoying victories?” he said. “But we’re going to come back and be the hardest-working team once we get into the film room and practice field. These kids are hungry, and they know they want to get better.”