Prep Football: Carson 16, Norh Rowan 6
By Steve Huffman
SPENCER — North Rowan kept things interesting for a bit, but a bigger, stronger Carson team wore down the Cavaliers en route to a 16-6 win Friday night.
The game was the season opener for both schools, and there were plenty of first-night miscues. Carson fumbled the ball away three times and gave up an interception.
North was intercepted twice, lost one fumble and struggled repeatedly to get the proper number of players on the field.
“It’s always good to get your first game under your belt,” said Carson coach Mark Woody. “We didn’t even have a scrimmage game this year.”
The Cavaliers jumped to a 6-0 first-quarter lead thanks to a blocked punt that was recovered in the end zone by Jalen Cook. The lead stood until midway through the second period when Carson’s Austin McNeil connected with K.J. Pressley on a pair of scoring strikes, the first covering 19 yards and the second measuring 36.
North never recovered, and had little luck getting its offense out of neutral. The Cavaliers managed only 96 yards of offense, and were 23 yards in the hole in the rushing department in the second half.
Still, for the Cavaliers, there were signs of promise.
“It was definitely not last year’s Carson game,” said North coach Tasker Fleming, referring to the 43-0 shelling the Cavaliers took in 2010. “But you can’t be happy being on the short end of a 16-6 score.”
Woody said North impressed him.
“They’re much improved,” he said. “They’re going to win a bunch of games.”
In his next breath, Woody said he also saw much to like about his own team.
“Our guys, they got behind and they came back,” he said. “I’m very proud.”
North took the opening kick and showed it came to play, with Jordan Kimber ripping off a 22-yard gain on the game’s first play. But the drive stalled and the Cavaliers punted.
Carson took over at its own 12, driving to the 45. On fourth-and-1, the Cougars gambled, fullback Chris Barnhardt taking the ball up the middle where he was stuffed for a loss by North’s Alex Broughton.
The Cougars were called for unsportsmanlike conduct on the play and the Cavaliers took over at the Carson 27.
On North’s second play, T.J. Allen’s floater of a pass was intercepted by Dontae Gilbert at the Carson 1. Three plays by the Cougars resulted in no gain and a low snap on fourth down contributed to the block of Barnhardt’s kick, Cook recovering for the touchdown.
Midway through the second quarter, with the score still 6-0, Carson drove to the North 4. But a third-down pass from McNeil intended for Pressley fell incomplete and the Cougars were again flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct, the penalty leaving Carson facing fourth down at the 19.
No matter. McNeil lofted a perfect pass to Pressley in the left corner of the end zone. B.J. Collins’ extra point staked the Cougars to a lead they never relinquished.
Carson’s second touchdown came minutes later, the drive kept alive when North was flagged for having 12 players on the field after having stopped the Cougars on fourth down.
The penalty gave Carson a first down and on the next play McNeil connected again with Pressley for a score.
“When you’ve got a 3A school playing a 1A school, the lack of depth shows up pretty quickly,” Fleming said. “We’ll find the positives from this and go from there.”
Carson’s Gilbert finished with two interceptions, his second coming late in the fourth quarter and thwarting North’s final drive. Gilbert returned the ball from the Cougar 18 to the Cavalier 35.
“Coaches told me before the play, don’t be caught napping back there,” Gilbert said. “The game’s not over.”
Carson’s defensive front of Daniel Maner, Jeremiah Smith, MyQuon Stout and Alex Lyles dominated the line of scrimmage.
“I’m happy we worked together as a team,” Smith said. “We did the job we came in here to do.”