North Rowan moves to 2-0
SPENCER — Sometimes when the skies are darkest, the stars shine brightest.
In a game played under a pall of sorrow Friday night, host North Rowan showed how far it has come — finishing the season’s first month by finishing off Carson.
“I’m just proud of my guys,” coach Joe Nixon said quietly after North prevailed 34-15. “It was tough game to play and a tough game to win.”
Participants played and spectators watched with heavy hearts after learning of Post sports editor Ronnie Gallagher’s sudden death earlier in the day. Amoment of silence was observed in a brief, pre-game tribute.
Moments later the Cavs (2-0) stood for the national anthem — then stood for little else. Their defense forced six turnovers and limited Carson (1-1) to 64 yards in the second half. Their offense survived an injury to quarterback Alexis Archie and rattled and burned with cohesion behind backup Jareke Chambers. And despite collecting a month’s worth of penalties, North was a convincing winner.
“I’m just sore,” Chambers said after rushing for 97 yards and three touchdowns — and taking a shot in the back early in the fourth quarter. “It was that kind of game. It was a hard one.”
Carson coach Joe Pinyan, who celebrated a memorable win last week, felt like Big Jim playing poker on a losing night. He spent much of the evening pleading case after case with the officials.
“You know, if we quit turning the football over, we’re a pretty good team,” he said. “We played them physical, we got after them. The speed was a mismatch but if we eliminate the mistakes — and I’ve got a list of them — we’re very close.”
Carson’s first mistake came after it took the opening kickoff and controlled the ball for more than four minutes. But a fourth-down punt attempt was blocked by North’s Mike Robinson and returned 48 yards for a touchdown by teammate Kenyon Tatum.
“It was just the two of us going for a block,” said Tatum, a transfer from Davie County. “I scooped it up and scored. A great play.”
And a prelude of what was to come. Carson’s second possession resulted in a pick-six, a 41-yard interception return for a TD by linebacker Xavier Robinson. The Cougars trailed 12-0 and seemed cooked after just six minutes in North’s oven.
Instead Carson regrouped and mounted a six-play, 56-yard scoring drive capped when Brandon Sloop scored on a short burst over the right side late in the opening quarter.
“We made all these mistakes, but then we responded,” said Pinyan. “The next thing you know it was 18-7 and we scored to make it 18-15. We felt good about ourselves at halftime. We felt we had a chance.”
North’s defense stifled that chance with a dominant second half. It forced a safety late in the third period when a long snap sailed over punter Andrew Hower’s head and out of the end zone. Then it forced turnovers on Carson’s final three possessions in the fourth quarter.
“The defense was really strong tonight,” said Tatum, who also picked off a pass. “We did everything we had to do.”
His effort helped North open the season with consecutive wins for the first time since 1998. There was also a downside to North’s triumph. It was penalized 14 times for 129 yards, a mess Nixon insists “we have to clean up.”
And then there was Archie, the junior southpaw who passed for 134 yards and three touchdown’s is a season-opening win at East Rowan. Last night he suffered an unspecified arm injury on the Cavs’ third play from scrimmage — a short, sideline completion to Cameron Sifford.
“He hurt one of of his arms,” is all Nixon would reveal. “He’s going to have it checked out.”
That opened a door for Chambers, who scored on a pair of fourth-quarter scrambles. “I knew I had to step up, be a leader and put the team on my shoulders,” he said. “I’m glad I could do it.”
Pinyan applauded Chambers’ effort and said, “We game-planned for Archie, but he went out and suddenly there’s an all-world running back taking snaps. We didn’t prepare for that.”
NOTES: Carson linebacker Myquon Stout missed his second straight game with a back injury. He’s expected back when the Cougars return to action Sept. 13 at Central Cabarrus. ... Darren Isom had 82 yards rushing to CHS. ... North’s Trae Clark had the game’s longest run — a 70-yard gallop early in the second quarter.