Friday Night Hero: Carson’s Garrett Smith
By Mike London
CHINA GROVE ó Carson’s 14-13 victory at Ledford was the best win in school history, topping even last year’s amazing triumph at Lake Norman.
It was the playoff debut for the Cougars. Beyond that, it was the first time in program history that Carson came out on top in a physical, defensive struggle.
In the school’s previous nine wins, the Cougars won with offense, lighting up the scoreboard for 31 or more points.
This time points were tough to come by. Their workhorse went down early. The passing game was limited to 82 yards by awful conditions. People had to play out of position. Carson still found a way to claim a landmark win.”Ledford attacked every position, every kid we had out there,” assistant coach Travis Billings said. “Ledford tried very hard to make it happen, tried to find that weak link in our defense. Every kid we had out there had to do something.”
Garrett Smith, a 5-foot-8, 195-pound junior defensive lineman, was a link in a chain that refused to break, and he will never forget it.
“It was muddy, really muddy out there,” Smith said. “Offense stepped up when it had to. Defense stepped up when it had to.”
Tailback Shaun Warren has rushed for 1,852 yards out of Carson’s I-formation this season. His night ended with an ankle injury on Carson’s fourth snap.
“That cut our playbook way down, probably by half,” offensive line coach Brian Billings said.
Carson’s second-best tailback option is Jacorian Brown, a stud at defensive end. Head coach Mark Woody had little choice but to move Brown to offense. He joined fullback Cliff Long in the backfield.
Long scored two TDs. Reid Lippard kicked two PATS. The Cougars led 14-0.
Brown never found the end zone, but he found plenty of Ledford defenders to smash into. He ignored holes, preferring to collide with Panthers. He had a ball.
“It was fun watching Jacorian run the ball again,” Smith said. “He was bowling people over.”
Ledford scored with a trick formation late in the first half to make it 14-7. The Panthers tallied again with 9:48 remaining. It was 14-13, but the tying PAT failed.
“It’s not like their kid just missed it,” Travis Billings said. “We got pressure on him, had guys in his face.”
With a one-point lead, the last nine minutes seemed to last nine days.
“We made first downs on offense, changed field position some, kept them looking at long fields,” Billings said. “For the most part, we stopped ’em, but it was tie a knot at the end of a rope and try to hang on.”
Smith’s versatility helped. When Brown moved to offense, Smith shifted from his normal position as a defensive tackle to replace Brown at end.
“Smith is tough enough to play inside, quick enough to play outside,” Billings said.
Smith finished the night with 10 tackles. Each of them was important.
“Smith is football smart, stays low and stays in control, even on a mud field like we had Friday,” defensive line coach Jason Stanley said. “He’s quiet, but he shows up to play. He’ll lay a lick.”
Ledford had to throw late, great news for Smith and his fellow linemen. They finally could disregard the run and get after the QB.
“The play I’ll remember is the last one,” Smith said. “Incomplete pass. It was a great feeling when it fell.”
And after that last pass.
“I just walked off that field,” Smith said. “Then I started crying.”