Prep Football: Northwest Cabarrus 21, Carson 7
By Mike London
KANNAPOLIS ó Carson moved the ball on its first possession and scored on its second one.
It was the Cougars’ next 10 possessions that faltered in Friday’s 21-7 NPC loss against Northwest Cabarrus.
“I’ve been around, seen some football,” Carson coach Mark Woody said. “In this conference, you just play one good team after another, and we saw another good one. It wasn’t that we played poorly. Northwest played well.”
Shaun Warren produced a 2-yard scoring run, a 37-yard scamper and a 40-yard reception, but that was all the big plays for Carson’s offense. Northwest’s defense, keyed by corners Graham Wright and Grant Keyes, controlled the game the last three quarters.
Both punters got workouts. Carson senior Daniel Yates and Northwest freshman Bradley Pinion were called on seven times each.
Northwest won for the first time at home since August. The Trojans, who got 182 rushing yards and two TDs from sophomore Calvin Nelson, tied Carson and North Iredell for seventh place in the NPC at 2-5.
“We needed this,” Northwest coach Rich Williams said. “We could’ve folded by now and mailed this one in, but no one did. Not the kids and not the coaching staff.”
Carson (3-6) has lost four straight since its dramatic victory at Lake Norman and has scored only 19 points in those games.
Carson’s defense had energy and forced Northwest to punt shortly after the opening kickoff. The Cougars then drove to the Northwest 28 before bogging down. A fourth-down sack by Steven Ward ended the drive.
Senior Ryan Jones quarterbacked the first series for Carson, but sophomore Zack Gragg got a shot the rest of the way.
“We’ve got two quarterbacks that can play, and Ryan has been sick some this week,” Woody said.
Northwest’s second possession ended abruptly when linebacker John Mullis returned an interception to the Northwest 26. Carson cashed in, with Warren punching his way into the end zone on second-and-goal from the 2. Chris Barnhardt’s old-school, straight-on PAT gave the Cougars a 7-0 lead.
Northwest also changed QBs early. After freshman Arrick Hincher was picked off by Mullis, Williams turned to junior Jonathon Wallace, and Wallace did a nice job with the option, a different look for the Trojans.
“That’s something we’ve been working on for three weeks, but the last two weeks we got behind early and couldn’t really use it,” Williams said.
Early in the second quarter, Northwest (4-5) drove 65 yards to tie the score.
“They were good at the option, and it was hard to stop,” Carson nose guard Micah Honeycutt said. “I thought our defense played well enough, but they were able to beat us with a few long plays.”
The game swung the Trojans’ way later in the quarter when Gragg found wideout Weston Snow over the middle, only to have the ball jarred loose. It was tough to tell without replay if the play should have been ruled an incomplete pass or a fumble. The call was a fumble, and Josh Cannon returned it to the Carson 24. Northwest scored the go-ahead TD two plays later when Wallace dumped a middle screen to Wright, who dashed 18 yards to the end zone.
The second half was frustrating for the Cougars. Yates couldn’t latch onto a potential touchdown pass, and another pass ricocheted off his hands to Dustin Foster, who made a diving interception for Northwest.
Nelson got a block from Fred House and broke a 77-yard TD in the third quarter to put Carson in a real bind, and Nelson had most of a 75-yard sprint called back by a penalty.
“They kind of caught us off guard with some stuff, and that No. 2 (Nelson) was quick,” Carson safety Jenson Harden said. “I ain’t gonna lie to you.”
Carson had Yates lined up one-on-one against Wright all night, but Wright, Northwest’s captain and leader, was equal to the challenge.
“All week we talked about Yates being their guy and how much they like to go to him on slants,” Wright said. “We played smart coverage, and we got good pressure on their QB. That helped a lot.”
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