Prep Football: West Rowan 44, Carson 14
By Mike London
MOUNT ULLA — West Rowan coach Scott Young celebrated the program’s eighth straight NPC championship with a barbecue sandwich, a sports drink and a calm, confident demeanor.
West was outplayed at times by Carson on Friday, but the Falcons still won by a convincing 44-14 on the scoreboard.
“We probably underestimated them some,” said West tight end Louis Kraft, who caught a touchdown pass. “But Carson’s record doesn’t show their effort. They definitely played us hard.”
The Cougars couldn’t stop Dinkin Miller (151 rushing yards) in the first half, and QB Zay Laster hurt them with two TD passes and a game-sealing 59-yard sprint early in the fourth quarter.
Carson (3-7, 2-3) has dropped five of its last six games and still needs a victory against North Iredell next week to secure a spot in the 3A state playoffs.
Meanwhile, the Falcons, as consistent as the sunrise, won their 41st straight county game (dating to 2001) and their 31st in a row in the conference.
“They’re just a very sound football team,” Carson coach Mark Woody said. “Every single down is precious when you play them. Every play you run has got to get positive yards. If they get you second-and-15, then they’ve got you.”
West Rowan’s current league winning streak began with a 20-0 win against Carson in 2007. That triumph followed an upset loss to West Iredell. Since that night, there have been no league letdowns.
“Both streaks say a lot about our kids and our program,” Young said. “I wouldn’t say either one means more. Some years our county is better than our conference. Some years our conference is better than our county.”
West’s latest NPC banner was far from routine.
“We’re only 2-2 going into our game against Statesville, we don’t have our starting QB, and then Statesville has us down,” Young said. “But we were able to come back and win that game. I think we’ve been headed in the right direction ever since that night.”
Carson won’t argue. The Cougars, who pride themselves on a power running game, had 6 net rushing yards. Thirty-one handoffs to two good tailbacks netted a grand total of 35 yards.
“We let up in a few spots, but overall we had a great team effort,” West linebacker Logan Stoodley said.
Stoodley and lineman Trey Shepherd had four physical stops apiece in the Carson backfield.
“I thought our whole front seven was dominant tonight,” Young said.
Carson struck first, with D.J. Love picking off a pass early. Then Carson’s soph QB Austin McNeill fired a 28-yard strike to K.J. Pressley for a shocking 7-0 lead.
“It was a big start,” Pressley said. “I thought we were going to do it. We had the momentum for a while there.”
But Miller was running wild for West, breaking off gains of 18, 15, 24 and 21 yards before halftime.
“We were all in sync,” Miller said. “When the offensive line is blocking that well, you can make plays.”
Laster’s 10-yard scoring toss to Jarvis Morgan finished a sharp 86-yard drive for a 7-7 tie. Then Laster threw a 31-yard TD pass to Kraft, who didn’t have a run-conscious defender in his area code.
Miller’s 21-yard scoring run with 7:25 left in the second quarter made it 20-7, but McNeill’s TD pass to Darius Gardner with just 1:13 left in the second quarter stopped West’s spree and gave the Cougars a chance to get to the locker room down only 20-14.
That didn’t happen, though.
After Carson didn’t execute on a squib kickoff, West got field position, and Laster, leading a hurry-up offense, connected on a deep ball to Miller to the Carson 2 to set up a backbreaking TD just 27 seconds before halftime.
Carson made defensive adjustments after that and contained Miller in a rugged, scoreless third quarter.
“(Corner) Dontae Gilbert locked down on Morgan and we put another man in the box,” safety Zach Blythe explained. “And we played better as a team, more as a unit.”
The Cougars controlled the third quarter, but West took advantage of short fields for a flurry of points in the fourth. Hobie Proctor kicked a field goal, and a physical Laster and a flying Daisean Reddick broke long touchdown runs.