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Prep Football: Carson 41, North Iredell 7

By Ronnie Gallagher
rgallagher@salisburypost.com
CHINA GROVE ó Before Carson’s homecoming game Friday night, several local rock bands gave the students a chance to do a little head banging.
Their football team’s defense then did a little head banging of its own as the Cougars demolished North Iredell 41-7.
Carson’s 41 points were a little deceiving. The offense got plenty of help from a D-line led by Ryan Shoaf, and from special teams, led by Jenson Harden.
While Carson (2-2, 5-4) held North Iredell (0-3, 1-7) to just one net yard on the ground in the first half ó including a minus-seven in the second quarter, Harden snuffed out two punts, both leading to scores.
“It was very weird,” Carson coach Mark Woody said after the Cougars snapped a two-game losing streak. “We struggled getting things going offensively. Special teams helped us out.”
North Iredell coach Shannon Ashley was left shaking his head over his kicking game. Not only did Carson block three punts (Zach White also had one), but Carson’s first two points came when Raiders punter Bradley Moore kneeled for a low snap in the end zone but went a little too low. His knee touched down.
Add a failed fake punt deep in North Iredell territory and Carson grabbed an early lead it never relinquished.
“We haven’t had a punt blocked all season,” Ashley said. “Special teams killed us tonight for some reason.”
And Carson’s offense? Shaun Warren finished with perhaps the most surprising 178-yard rushing game in school history. He had 27 carries but gained 124 on three carries. Six of his carries went for losses. But he had a 72-yard burst down the home sidelines in the third quarter that put Carson up 41-0.
Carson also has the county’s best passing combination in quarterback Zack Gragg and receiver Cody Clanton.
On the Cougars’ first possession, Carson faced a third-and-22. Gragg faded back and lofted a perfect pass to Clanton for a 63-yard score.
The two hooked up again in the second quarter from three yards out for a 15-0 lead.
That’s when the rest of the team stepped up.
Harden zipped through the line to block a punt and linebacker White fell on it for a touchdown and a 22-0 advantage. Moments later, Harden did it again, this time, leading to Dylan Eagle’s 19-yard scoring reception and a 29-0 advantage at halftime.
“Your eyes get as big as quarters,” Harden beamed while talking about his penetration.
While Clifford Long (68 yards on 10 carries) and Warren scored second-half touchdowns, it was Shoaf and the defense that dominated. It harassed Raider quarterback Chris Van Hoose into 17 incompletions.
“We brought the rush pretty hard tonight,” said Shoaf, a 6-foot-1, 210-pound junior. “We went as fast as we could and were all over the ball.”
“I’m proud of our defense,” Woody said, also pointing to Daniel Rodriguez, Garrett Smith and Micah Honeycutt. “Our defensive front was solid.”
So was defensive back Deonte Moses, who finished with a fumble recovery and an interception.
“We played perfect,” Moses said with a wide grin. “We were coming off a bad loss and we came to play.”

NOTES: Haley McKnight was crowned Homecoming Queen and Jesse Park was Homecoming King. … Zack Smith and Eagle each had two receptions … White also had a sack. … Harden, a four-year starter, had a beautiful night. “Our first homecoming win in school history,” he said. “It feels great.”

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