Friday Night Hero: Carson's Daniel Yates
By Ronnie Gallagher
Daniel Yates has become the bona fide leader of the Carson football team. Which means, when a big play is needed, the Cougars turn to the 6-foot-1, 205-pounder.
Twice in the fourth quarter of Saturday’s 34-30 win over Lake Norman, Carson found itself trailing. Each time, it was Yates to the rescue
First, it was his kickoff return.
Lake Norman had scored to take a 22-21 lead with 5:38 left. As Yates headed onto the field, a teammate called out, “You’re going to run this one back.”
You want me, too?” Yates shot back. “All right, I’ll do it.”
He said he looked at head coach Mark Woody and told him, “I’m taking it back.”
And then Yates did just that. Ninety yards after he fielded the ball, Carson had the lead back at 27-22. It was his second return for a touchdown this season.
Assistant Brian Billings, who along with Ben Hampton, works with the kickoff return team, said Yates saw the wall of blockers, found a seam, and was gone.
“We’ve always known he was a threat,” Billings said. “When he catches it, you always see that burst. When he finds that seam, it’s hard to catch him. We were fortunate they kept kicking it to him.”
The lead was short-lived. A minute later, Lake Norman led 30-27. Carson would have one more opportunity.
Yates remained undaunted.
“We were not going to lose this game,” he said.
But things looked bleak when the Cougars faced a fourth-and-17 at its own 40-yard line.
Yates said he told quarterback Ryan Jones in the huddle, “I’ll go get it.”
Yates was running a route down the sideline but quickly noticed Jones’ long pass was headed toward the middle of the field.
“He had pressure so he kinda slung it,” Yates said.
And Yates didn’t let his teammate down. He raced under the ball and pulled it in for a 39-yard gain, which keyed the final scoring drive with the 1:15 left.
“The ball drifted toward the middle of the field and Daniel just flat goes and gets it,” praised Woody.
Those two plays didn’t define Yates’ performance, however. He averaged 25 yards on three catches. He averaged 14 yards on five carries. He even made a touchdown-saving tackle.
But his most spectacular play came on an unbelievable reception. He saw a Jones pass going behind him and deemed it uncatchable.
“I tried to bat the ball down because it was behind me,” Yates remembers. “But it stuck to my glove and I snagged it.”
Woody was amazed.
“There was a linebacker in front of him and safety behind him,” Woody explained. “He caught it with his left hand and never touched it with his off hand. And he kept going. He didn’t break stride.”
Woody makes a highlight film each Monday for the Cougars to watch. There was a lot of Daniel Yates on teh latest version.
“He made some plays I’ve never seen,” Woody said. There’s going to be a place for him next year in college. He’s a late bloomer.”
This season has already bloomed into something special for Carson, which entered its third season 0-22.
Now, it has a winning record at 3-2.
“That sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?” Yates smiled.
What really sounds good is that Carson now knows it has a leader it can turn to in the clutch.