Prep Football: Hickory Ridge 25, Carson 13: Cougars lose suspended game
By Paul Hershey
HARRISBURG ó This certainly wasn’t what Carson head coach Mark Woody had in mind when he and the Cougars made the trip back to Harrisburg Saturday night to finish their season-opening game, postponed from Friday due to lightning.
From the time play resumed, little went right for Carson and little wrong for Hickory Ridge, which picked up an insurance touchdown and posted a 25-13 win.
It took less time than Carson’s bus ride down ó about 20 minutes in real-time ó and no doubt made the trip home seem even longer.
“We didn’t get a whole lot going,” Woody said. “They came out ready to play and we didn’t.
“They’re an excellent coaching staff. Their kids played well. We had a good plan and it came down to executing and we didn’t execute on some things and they a did. They’re a very good team.”
The Cougars trailed 19-13 with essentially a quarter to play Saturday, but had two just two offensive possessions and failed to pick up a first down.
Starting at the Hickory Ridge 49, tailback Shaun Warren was stuffed for a two-yard loss and held to no gain on the first two plays by a fired-up Hickory Ridge defense. An incomplete pass on third down resulted in a quick punt.
“The biggest thing was on that first drive we needed to put the ball in the end zone and we didn’t do it,” Woody said. “So that was a little bit of a letdown right there.”
The Cougars then faced a problem that they had for much of the first three quarters ó their defense being unable to get off the field.
Hickory Ridge took over and methodically marched 78 yards in 13 plays ó taking almost seven minutes off the clock ó for the score that basically put it away.
The combination of running back Brian Baltimore and split ends Cody Cothren and Coye Still helped the Ragin’ Bulls move into Carson territory on the ground.
The Cougars then had a chance for a stop when tackles for losses by sophomore Chris Barnhardt and Zack Grkman set up a third-and-15 situation at the Cougars’ 48 with five minutes left.
Hickory Ridge, though, completed a 14-yard pass in the flat to receiver John Martinez and Baltimore converted the fourth-and-1 play with a 10-yard run up the middle.
“We’ve got to get three-and-outs,” Woody said. “Obviously we’ve got to make first downs, but we’ve got to stop them too. That’s part of our job.”
Three plays later, Baltimore broke several tackles and stretched over the goal line for a 15-yard touchdown with 3:36 to play.
“We challenged our defense to come out and get us a three-and-out and we were going to take the ball and score,” Hickory Ridge head coach Marty Paxton said. “They answered the challenge.”
Carson ran four plays on its next series. Two rushes netted zero yards and Warren gained one yard on a pass reception before Nick Houston was sacked for a seven-yard loss on fourth down.
On seven offensive plays Saturday, the Cougars lost eight yards.
“I think it’s one of those things where because of the fact we ended up starting over, they were excited and played with a lot of adrenaline,” Woody said. “They came out and they executed.”
Paxton agreed his team was probably helped by the suspension of play.
“I was nervous on Friday night had it continued,” he said. “They were doing a good job running the ball and we weren’t tackling very well. I don’t know if we were tired or what. But our guys came out and decided they weren’t going to have it. They decided they wanted to play defense really well.”
Warren totaled two yards on three carries Saturday and finished the game with 140, along with the two touchdowns he scored on Friday night.
Baltimore rushed 11 times for 69 yards on Saturday, pushing his total for the contest to 171. As a team, Hickory Ridge racked up 377 rushing yards. The Cougars finished with just 208 total yards ó along with the four turnovers they committed in Friday night’s play.
“You’ve got to give them credit in terms of how they’re playing for what we do and the fact they executed,” Woody said. “Going back to (Friday) night, we made some mistakes that put ourselves in a hole. It was just too big to climb out of.”
Carson’s stretch of three road games to start the season continues next week at North Rowan.
“We’ve just got to put it behind us and move on,” Woody said. “That’s all we can do.
“This isn’t going to define who we are. We’ve got a good ballclub. We’re excited about the season, I’m excited about my players.”