Carson edges Mt. Pleasant in thriller
MT. PLEASANT — Carson’s football team is getting pretty good at breaking hearts.
A week ago the Cougars rallied in the fourth quarter to surprise East Rowan in a pivotal SPC showdown. On Friday they did all of their scoring in the final 2:49 to stun non-conference foe Mount Pleasant.
“I’m glad heart disease isn’t rampant on my side of the family,” coach Joe Pinyan joked after Carson scored the game’s only touchdown with 1:07 to play and earned a dramatic 10-3 victory. “It never changes with us. We don’t do anything the easy way.”
Carson (3-2) was pure Ike & Tina Turner — it didn’t do anything nice and easy. The Cougars fell behind early when junior Austin Parker drilled a 44-yard field goal with 2:08 remaining in the first period.
“Then we couldn’t get anything going,” said winning quarteback Austin McNeil. “We needed to slow down and just play the game. Everyone was pressing and stressing. We got it right when we started doing what we should have been doing all along.”
That took a while. Carson failed to record a first down and managed only 24 total yards in a punt-filled third quarter. In the fourth it finally logged on.
“Their defense was tough to begin with,” said CHS left guard Cody Rodriguez. “But in the end they weren’t hitting us as hard — probably because we came together and started getting our blocks right.”
The final period opened when a Mount Pleasant punt settled on the Carson 18-yard line. McNeil took the wheel and steered the Cougars into MP territory, alternating handoffs to bone-cruncher Brandon Sloop and power-toss feeds to speedster Darren Isom. The 17-play drive stalled neary nine minutes later at the Mount 5-yard line, but Carson’s reward was Logan Correll’s game-tying 22-yard field goal.
“ On that drive everybody was in sync,” Pinyan said. “The guys up top were giving the information we needed and our kids stayed on their blocks and made all the right reads. Once we kicked the field goal I wasn’t sure we were gonna get the ball back. I thought maybe we could play for overtime.”
Instead the Tigers (2-3) took possession and drove to the Carson 30 as the clock ticked to a close. “That’s what made this such a tough game to lose,” said MP coach Michael Johns. “Our defense had played a fantastic game and the offense put us in position to win it with a late kick.”
They can thank 6-foot-5 Alex Lyles for crashing the party. The Carson defensive tackle was part of horde of Cougars that sacked Parker — MP’s quarterback — on first-and-10. Then the ball was dislodged and Lyles recovered on the 34-yard line with 1:19 remaining.
“The quarterback got scared,” Lyles noted. “He bobbled it and tried to get away. Unfortunately, that didn’t work out.”
It set the stage for an edge-of-your-seat finish. On first down McNeil swung a left-side screen pass to Isom, who got a disruptive block from wideout Andrew Hower and turned the 5-yard sideliner into a 66-yard jailbreak run to the end zone. The clock showed 1:07 to go.
“That play’s designed to be a home run play,” McNeil said. “That time it was.”
“It was a wheel play that didn’t work earlier,” Isom added after contributing 143 of Carson 246 total yards. “That time the OL got it right.”
So did Carson’s defense on MP’s final drive. The hosts reached the CHS 22-yard line before a fourth-down pass was batted away by cornerback Tyrese Paul as the clock blared.“Words can’t describe this,” McNeil said. “We never gave up.”