Gallagher column: D-Line set up Jones' big play
SALISBURY — There were only 16.2 seconds left and Carver was on the Salisbury 12-yard line.
The Yellow Jackets were down 24-17 but all-everything QB Madison Mills had completed pass after pass after pass. A drive that started on his own 6 had moved 82 yards. Quickly.
Then, a timeout.
Defensive line coach Scotty Robinson, who was in plenty of these tight spots as a former East Carolina starter, brought lanky 6-foot-4 Sam Humble over to the side for a 1-on-1 chat.
“This is your opportunity to make a play,” Robinson told the senior. “We need one big play.”
Humble understood. So did Scott Givens. The elusive Mills could make or break their season.
“We gotta get pressure on the quarterback,” Humble said Robinson stressed. “That’s exactly what we did.”
When the ball was snapped, it was the biggest surge of the night. Mills didn’t have much time for anything but to loft a pass toward Uriah Razzak in the end zone.
“I’ve got a talented receiver in Uriah,” Mills said. “He gave me the signal and we went for it.”
As Mills threw, Givens held his breath.
“I was getting pressure but I felt like it wasn’t enough,” he said. “I had a little panic attack, I’m not going to lie.”
But Mills’ quick throw found someone other than Razzak. It landed in the arms of Hornet defensive back Dejoun Jones, who cradled the ball for the clinching interception.
And when asked about it, Jones proved why he is a great teammate. He didn’t talk about himself first. He talked about the big boys up front.
“I love those guys,” Jones beamed. “They’ve been working hard in practice all week and they stepped up.”
Even a referee in the press box noted that this should have been a third-round matchup at best. Mainly because of Carver’s quarterback.
Mills was the biggest concern for defensive coordinator Ryan Crowder. He had to be feeling pretty good at halftime. Mills did not engineer any scoring drives in the first half as Salisbury led 3-0.
“We heard he was the best quarterback they’ve had up there in years and he showed it,” Crowder said. “We had to rely on the defensive line a lot in the second half.”
Carver was talented and it had been to state championship games. But Salisbury is a defending state champ. That last play proved what champions are made of.
“There was a little pressure,” Mills said of the final pass of his career. “I felt in rhythm the whole game. That last throw just didn’t go the way we wanted it to.”
Coach Joe Pinyan hugged Jones after the game and said, “You bailed me out.”
He was referring to two chances to kick field goals that he didn’t try. But everyone forgets that stuff when you win.
Then, Pinyan looked for Humble.
“Sam Humble played a heck of a ballgame for us tonight,” Pinyan said. “He shows no emotion at all but he comes out of himself.”
Humble did afterward. He even smiled a little.
But no one was smiling bigger than Jones after his pick.
“I had to step up,” he nodded. “That’s a senior move right there.”
A senior who is moving on to the second round of the playoffs.
“There are no candy canes in the playoffs,” Pinyan said. “But I wouldn’t want it any other way.”
Contact Ronnie Gallagher at 704-797-4287 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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