Prep Football: Salisbury 43, Carson 7
By Marny Hendrick
SALISBURY — The cross county battle between Salisbury and Carson started as a sprint but quickly evolved into a dominating game of keep-away.
The host Hornets used every weapon in their offensive arsenal to chew up the clock and rack up points in 43-7 romp over the Cougars Friday night at Ludwig Stadium.
Just four minutes into the game the score was knotted at 7-7 as each team ripped off huge gains in quick strike fashion. Salisbury started with a four-play drive covering 74 yards as Dominique Dismuke scored from the one.
Carson then unleasehed their remarkable freshman runner. Brandon Sloop as he ripped off runs of 44 and 30 yards to set the stage for his own two yard dive that quickly tied the score.
The crowd, including legendary Salisbury Coach Pete Stout and members of three of his championship teams from the 70’s, just knew a high scoring contest was in the works.
They were wrong. What followed was a precision wishbone assault by halfback Justin Ruffin, quarterback Brian Bauk and the rest of the offense that kept Carson off the field for long periods of time.
“We felt like we could move the ball on them,” winning coach Joe Pinyan said. “but Carson did not allow many home runs tonight so we had to settle for singles and doubles. It worked out well for us.”
The true turning point for Salisbury (now 5-1) was keyed by their defense that forced the Cougars into a one dimensional attack.
“Their offensive line is so big and physical”, noted senior linebacker Travis Byrd. “We just had to play hard and find a way to lock them down. We could not let them come in here and dominate us.”
The key moment came in late first quarter when Salisbury led 14-7 but Carson was set up on the Hornet 19 thanks to a high snap over the punter’s head. Sloop already had 90 yards and a score so everyone knew what was coming, including Byrd. He stuffed Sloop for a loss on the next snap in what he would call a “bang-bang” moment.
Salisbury ended up holding the Cougars on downs at the 13 and the contest was essentially never in doubt after that.
Carson, now 2-3 for the season, just did not have enough weapons to get back in the game.
“I am proud of the fact that we played all four quarters,’ Cougar coach Mark Woody said, “But they just had too much speed for us and we had no way to respond.”
Sloop, a 185 pound 14-year-old, carried the ball for 24 of Carson’s 32 running plays, racking up 152 yards and the early TD. Afterward he showed proper wisdom beyond his years.
“I love running the ball, “Sloop said, “but my offensive line does a great job opening the holes for me.”
By contrast Salisbury showed dominating balance with Bauk rushing for 159 yards and passing for 41; Ruffin scoring four touchdowns; plus Dismuke and fullback Max Allen chewing up yards and time with 71 and 59 yards. In total, Salisbury carried the ball 50 times for a lofty 419 net yards.
“They (Carson) are a big team and very strong.” stated Bauk. “But when you have a backfield like we do it is really great. We have so many weapons.”
Salisbury used almost all of the second period with an 80 yard drive covering seven minutes to expand their lead. Ruffin took a pitch into the end zone from 5 yards out to up the score to 21-7.
The second half was more of the same as the Hornets ground out 71 yards in 10 plays as Baul connected with Ruffin from 24 yards for a scoring pass. Ruffin followed with an 18-yard romp early in the fourth period to expand the lead to 36-7.
In the meantime, the Hornet defense were able to contain Sloop in the second half by holding him to 23 yards rushing while harassing quarterback Austin McNeill into a 2 for 11 passing night thanks to heavy pressure.
The end of the game may have featured a little payback of sorts for last year’s Carson win over the Hornets. Facing a third-and-11 at the Cougar 13 with 41 seconds left, Bauk chose to toss a pass over the middle for a 13-yard scoring pass to Ruffin rather than let clock expire. That closed out the scoring for the night.