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Prep Football: Robinson 27, Carson 21

By David Shaw
dshaw@salisburypost.com
CONCORD — Add another chapter to Carson’s bizarro football season.
The Cougars turned the ball over four times, played turnstile defense and rushed for negative-5 yards in the second half — yet still had a chance to win Friday night’s game at J.M. Robinson.
“A weird night and a weird season,” quarterback Austin McNeill said after Carson dropped a 27-21 decision. “It was just a bunch of little things that lost that game. Little things that added up to big things.”
Carson (1-3) lost because its defense was forced to play self-defense against the Bulldogs and their effective, hurry-up offense. Robinson collected 22 first downs, 467 total yards and ran eight plays that gained at least 20 yards.
“I’m not going to lie,” junior safety Will Zentmeyer said. “I was tired in the fourth quarter. You could tell we were all tired but we had to keep fighting.”
Carson had no answer for Robinson running back Darien Williams, a 190-pound junior who bumped and bruised his way for 189 yards and a pair of first-half touchdowns. “He was tough and fast,” coach Mark Woody said afterward. “We had all kinds of trouble stopping him.”
Williams had 132 yards by halftime and gave the hosts a 21-7 lead when he scored on a 15-yard rumble midway through the second period. Moments later he huffed and puffed for 57 more on a circle-counter play that Carson never adjusted to.
“He’s worked awfully hard to get this good,” winning coach Bobby Cloninger said after Robinson leveled its record at 2-2. “He gives us power and shiftiness.”
Carson responded late in the first half and drew within 21-14 when McNeill — who passed for 309 yards but threw three interceptions — capped an 80-yard drive with a1-yard TD run. Key plays on the drive included long completions (44 and 45 yards) to senior K.J. Pressley.
“When you have receivers like I do, you just throw it and they make you look good,” McNeill said. “They make me look good and I make them look good.”
[0x12]Everyone looked good when Carson opened the second half with a quick-strike touchdown. On first down from his own 20-yard line, McNeill threaded a perfect pass to Pressley along the right sideline. With just one defender to beat, Pressley was sprung like an inmate during a prison break when teammate Ben Gragg abused a would-be tackler, allowing Pressley to coast into the end zone untouched.
“That block got me in the end zone,” Pressley said after making six receptions for 241 yards. “Without it I would have been caught.”
Woody said McNeill called the play, though it didn’t go exactly as devised. “It actually didn’t work like we planned, but it worked,” he said. “There was a lot of pressure on the quarterback backside. He got hit pretty good, but he was supposed to hold the ball a little longer.”
After B.J. Collins’ extra point tied the game transformed into a defensive tug-of-war. The teams traded punts and Carson’s D.J. Love intercepted an Alex Thornton pass in the end zone. Robinson regained the lead late in the quarter when Thornton fired a 16-yard TD pass to senior Devon Gilbert.
Carson’s defense pitched a shutout in the fourth quarter, but so did Robinson’s. The Cougars took six snaps in JMR territory in the final period and penetrated as deep as the Bulldogs’ 32. But McNeill was picked off twice and another possession went three-and-out.
“We’re all gonna wake up tomorrow thinking about what we could have done better,” McNeill said.
Added Zentmeyer: “We’ve got all the weapons. We’ve just got to learn when to fire them.”

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