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Prep Football: Statesville 20, Carson 17

By David Shaw
dshaw@salisburypost.com
CHINA GROVE ó Carson has spent much of its NPC season getting pushed around.
Friday night it pushed back ó but still fell just short in a heartbreaking, 20-17 loss to Statesville.
“Everybody did what they were supposed to do,” senior wide receiver Daniel Yates said. “We just let it slip away.”
A near-victory turned into another Carson loss ó its fifth straight ó when Kyon Harris scored on a 2-yard touchdown run with 15.7 seconds to play.
“Our kids are doing the right things and believing in what they do,” said Carson coach Mark Woody, whose Cougars (3-7, 2-6) dropped their home finale. “They’re playing hard and leaving it on the field. But they’re still learning how to win.”
This one was certainly within their grasp.
The Cougars wiped out a 13-0, first-half deficit and moved in front 17-13 when tailback Shaun Warren scored on a 7-yard burst off left tackle with 8:32 remaining.
“We thought we had the game won,” said Warren, who rushed for 105 yards and two TDs.
It looked even better seconds later when Statesville (7-3, 6-2) began its final drive from its own 10-yard line.
“It felt nice,” said Yates, one of 23 Carson seniors honored before kickoff. “You always want to take out somebody good.”
Added teammate Scott Ashby: “We were thinking, ‘This is our game. This is exactly where we want to be.’ ”
Statesville wasn’t buying that. It put the keys to its offense in the hands of T.J. McCombs, a quarterback who scrambled for 97 yards and threw a second-quarter touchdown pass to Darryl Epps.
“It was a tough situation,” he said. “They were playing their hearts out. They may have been low in the ranks, but they were knocking us around.”
McCombs was a maestro on Statesville’s game-winning drive, alternating handoffs to Harris ó a ricochet runner who turned 2-yard stuffs into 7-yard gains on his way to 154 yards and two TDs ó and speedy Andre Shepherd. Gradually the Hounds progressed downfield, advancing to the Carson 35 with 2:53 to go on a rarely called face-guarding penalty against defensive back Jenson Harden, who insisted he never touched intended receiver Epps on the play.
“To be honest with you, I thought it was a pretty good call,” Woody said. “Things like that hurt us. But I’ve got to worry about my kids, not every single call the officials make.”
McCombs, who spent the week studying Carson’s defense on film, agreed with the call.
“I saw the safety hovering on (Epps’) back and just threw it up there,” he said. “There’s no way the ref couldn’t call something.”
Eight snaps later Statesville scored the go-ahead touchdown, capping an 18-play, 90-yard drive that trimmed more than eight minutes off the clock.
“We’re better than Statesville,” said Yates, who sprinted 52 yards on Carson’s first play from scrimmage. “They just had the long drive at the end and won the game.”
Perhaps that’s what made winning coach Randall Gusler so relieved.
“Give them a load of respect,” he said. “Carson just hung around and hung around and hung around. They made us work for it. It took a last-minute touchdown to win it.
“We’re pretty fortunate to get this one.”

NOTES: Statesville rushed for 336 yards, including 248 in the first half. … Carson forced three turnovers in the second quarter. Ashby had a fumble recovery and an interception, and teammate Brandon Goodman picked off a pass. … The Cougars close their season next Friday at West Iredell.

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