METHUEN — Self-doubt crept in at Methuen High after an unsuccessful opener at Plymouth North.
"Definitely a bit of nervousness was there," said quarterback Cal Carroll. "We just had to get on guys, remember the assignments, watch films and make plays. Kids have started to step up."
Last night, Carroll and the Rangers impressively swept all those issues away just in time for Friday's Merrimack Valley Conference opener at Billerica by drilling Malden before about 1,200 fans at Nicholson Stadium, 42-12.
Carroll, who tossed 16 touchdown passes as a junior, threw for five more last night and ran for a sixth as the Rangers evened their record at 1-1.
Leading 14-12 at the break, Carroll hit on all seven of his second-half tosses. Three went for TDs, a 10-yarder to Kevin Higgins and two to Raudy Minaya, one covering 30 yards and a fade to the corner from the 4.
"Raudy and Kevin Higgins run great routes," said Carroll, who finished 11 of 16 for 145 yards. "We spread the field, we have four receivers, all with good hands, it makes things easy for me."
Offensively, the Rangers displayed plenty of balance with halfback Ryan Savastano rolling up 106 yards on 20 carries and Carroll added 91 yards on 15 rushes.
"We're trying to find ourselves defensively," said Ranger coach Pat Graham, who saw linebacker Matt Delmonte forced three turnovers while defensive tackle Phil Barrett chipped in a pair of big sacks and a fumble recovery.
"I don't think offensively we've hit that fifth gear yet. One and one isn't where I wanted to be but it's something we can build on. And we've got some momentum now."
All the starters were done with just under eight minutes left in the game against a Malden team that had its way with Haverhill just a week ago.
"It really started Monday in practice," said Carroll. "We knew we had to run the ball more, we established that early. We have young guys going hard in practice. Kids are starting to get it, coming together, something we really didn't have earlier in the season."
Methuen 42, Malden 12
Malden (1-1):6 6 0 0 — 12
Methuen (1-1):7 7 21 7 — 42
Ma — Jo Jo Randolph 16 run (kick wide) 3:04
Me — Raudy Minaya 18 pass from Cal Carroll (Eric Lacroix kick) :00
Ma — Frankie Dunn 3 run (pass failed) 7:14
Me — James Staples 10 pass from Carroll (Lacroix kick) :51
Me — Carroll 23 run (Lacroix kick) 8:27
Me — Minaya 30 pass from Carroll (Lacroix kick) 7:29
Me — Minaya 4 pass from Carroll (Lacroix kick) 2:34
Me — Kevin Higgins 10 pass from Carroll (Lacroix kick) 7:29
RUSHING: Methuen (42-217) — Cal Carroll 15-91, Ryan Savastano 20-106, Xavier Garcia 3-15, Jared McAdam 2-4, J.T. Bowler 2-1; Malden (22-75) — Jo Jo Randolph 9-46, Frankie Dunn 5-29, Kevin Valley 7-(-1), Franklin Huynh 1-1
PASSING: Methuen — Carroll 11-16-0, 145; Malden — Valley 11-22-1, 123
RECEIVING: Methuen — Raudy Minaya 5-72, Bobby Cole 3-37, Kevin Higgins 1-10, Steve Sychamponkhun 1-16, James Staples 1-10