Prep Football: East Rowan 31, Statesville 27
By David Shaw
email@example.comSTATESVILLE ó Anyone waiting for East Rowan’s bubble to burst will have to wait a little longer.
The Mustangs survived another close shave Friday night at Statesville when they scored a late touchdown and fled the scene with a riveting 31-27 NPC victory.
“I guess we’re getting really good at this,” coach Brian Hinson said after East (7-1, 3-0) won its third straight narrow decision. “I guess our kids need to play like this to win a football game. I thought the way we played, we should have won by two touchdowns.”
Instead ER needed a 3-yard touchdown burst by junior Quentin Sifford with 1:30 remaining to prevail.
“It feels good to pull it out,” Sifford said after gaining 175 straight-ahead yards. “Last week (a 29-26 win at Carson) was a scary one. This week I just had to lower my shoulder and push. I didn’t make a lot of cuts.”
East finished with 26 first downs and a season-best 409 yards rushing, thanks to an offensive line that opened gaping holes and provided Secret Service protection for quarterback Jamey Blalock.
“The OL always plays as a group,” said junior center Dalton Miller. “Sometimes we fall down, but we always pick each other up.”
Miller spent much of the night making life miserable for 305-pound Statesville nose guard Derrick Herring. “I’ve wound up against beasts before,” he said. “It’s just something you’ve got to work through.”
The Mustangs didn’t waste any time warming up in the bullpen against Statesville (2-5. 0-2), driving for TDs on each of their first two possessions.
“Actually, we had a chance to bust it open early,” said Blalock, who ran for 152 yards and a pair of scores. “But we didn’t take advantage of everything they gave us.”
A second-quarter fumble at the Statesville 24-yard line cost East a chance to take a commanding lead. The Greyhounds used the turnover to tie the score 14-14 on a 76-yard touchdown run by slippery running back Stephon Willis.
“As soon as he came around the corner and got to the outside, he was dangerous,” East linebacker Sam Edmonds said after Willis punctured the Mustangs for 218 yards on just 10 carries. “Our containment kept breaking down.”
East led 21-14 at the half and 24-20 after kicker Andrew May booted a 32-yard field goal ó his sixth of the season ó with 4:30 to go in the game. But Hinson said he regretted not sending May onto the field for a short attempt late in the third period, when a 13-play drive that consumed nearly seven minutes stalled on fourth down at the Statesville 14.”That was my fault,” he said. “I wanted to try the field goal but got talked out of it. If I had done that I wouldn’t have sweated so much toward the end of the game. That was bad coaching.”
Only 3:30 remained when SHS took its first lead of the game. Freshman quarterback Carlis Parker ó a lefty scrambler with a big upside ó threw his only completion, a 70-yard touchdown pass to Tevin Carr and the Hounds third play that covered at least 64 yards.
“What wasn’t 70 yards for them?” Hinson wondered afterward. “They had one ingredient that we lacked ó flat-out speed at every position.”
Backed into a corner, East began its final drive from the 48, thanks to a long kick return by Evan Hiatt with 3:18 to play. Blalock steered the Mustangs to the Statesville 30, then faked an option pitch and barrelled to the three.
“We ran the option about 95 percent of the time,” Blalock reported. “That one was an easy read. I just tucked it and gave it all I had.”
On first-and-goal, Sifford bulldozed shoulders-first over right tackle and into the end zone to the decisive score. “We knew we could do it,” he said, “because we’ve done it plenty of times before.”
A last-minute interception by defensive back Preston Troutman doused Statesville’s final hope.
“When they’ve had to make plays ó like last week and this week ó they’ve made them,” Hinson said. “I just wish they’d make a few more earlier in the game so they wouldn’t have to make them at such crucial times.”