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Shaw column: Carson lost, but Cougars still proved themselves

By David Shaw
sports@salisburypost.com
CHINA GROVE ó With each passing week, the Carson football team learns something more about itself.
Last night the Cougars learned that even perfection has its price.
“It seems like yesterday we were 1-0,” quarterback Ryan Jones said after CHS had the smile wiped off its face by visiting Salisbury. “Actually, it was yesterday. Having all that glory and publicity for a week, that was great. Once you’ve tasted that, you want it again. You can feel it. Instead, we crashed down and it’s hard. It’s really, really tough to talk about.”

It should be. Losing should never taste good, especially when its served up Salisbury-style. The unbeaten Hornets didn’t dominate either side of the line of scrimmage. They didn’t ring up any rec-league stats ó in fact, they were outgained by more than a hundred total yards. And they certainly didn’t impress anyone with their strength or might.
They just cashed in on a series of Carson miscues late in the first half and early in the second, then fled the scene clutching their third victory.
“We wanted to tire them out,” Carson center Wayne Lyman divulged. “But little mistakes can change a ballgame. And we had errors on both sides of the ball.”
Lyman speaks with a truthful tongue. He’s part of an offensive line that provided secret-service protection for Jones in last week’s triumph at North Rowan, a win that convincingly exonerated two years of barren futility for the Carson program.
“After that game,” he said, “we felt like we were on top of the world. A game like this brought us back to reality and proves we’ve got to keep working.”
For the better part of two quarters, it was working for the Cougars. Thanks to linebacker John Mullis, a senior who returned a second-period fumble for a touchdown and pounced on another loose ball eight seconds later, Carson found itself nursing what should have been a 12-7 halftime lead.
“We knew all along we could win this game if we stopped them on defense,” Mullis said. “And if we had stopped those big plays, we probably would have won.”
-Ah, those big plays. There were three of them in a span of 26.1 seconds that simply drowned the Cougars. Of course, Salisbury helped fill the pool.
“Carson’s the real deal,” said winning coach Joe Pinyan. “They did some things to take away our running game. But if you eliminate those three big plays, I’m not sure we’re fighting for our lives and playing overtime.”
Only 10.1 seconds remained in the first half when Salisbury utilized its omnipresent weapon ó speed ó and took a 14-12 lead on Dario Hamilton’s 48-yard TD reception from John Knox.
Next came a 15-yard penalty for roughing kicker Frankie Cardelle on the extra point and and an on-sides kick from the Carson 45. The Hornets recovered with less than eight seconds to go ó and one snap later it was 20-12, courtesy of track star Romar Morris’ 30-yard touchdown catch.
That’s when the 270-pound Lyman began feeling like something wasn’t right.
“When they started putting scores up on us,” he said, “we started thinking that maybe we’re not as big as we think we are. Maybe we’re not the top dogs any more.”
Things got worse before they got better when Hamilton flashed his four-on-the-floor speed and returned the second-half kickoff for a long TD.
“We made some dumb mistakes,” said Jones, who was picked off four times. “I wish I could have those interceptions back, but I can’t. Honestly, we feel like they didn’t beat us. We beat ourselves.”

Sometimes you have to face the enemy ó even when it means re-evaluating yourself. Lose the game, but don’t lose the lesson.
“We won’t” Mullis said. “We’re really close to going to the next level. All we had to do was stop those big plays and we beat Salisbury. But the papers are going to say something different.”
That’s just part of the price.

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