Friday Night Hero: East Rowan's Tyler L'Hommedieu
By Mike London
GRANITE QUARRY – East Rowan’s ball-security issues on offense appeared to be fixed in Friday’s 27-7 win against Carson.
East coughed up 11 fumbles in setbacks against North Rowan and Hickory Ridge, but it officially fumbled just once against the Cougars.
Give East’s defense part of the credit for the improvement.
“What we worked on all week in practice was trying to force fumbles from our offense,” senior linebacker Tyler L’Hommedieu said. “Coach (Jason) Barnes bought us half a pizza every time we forced a fumble.”
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Still, the defense stayed hungry enough to shut out Carson. The Cougars’ only touchdown came on a blocked punt.
Barnes, East’s new de2
fensive coordinator, has installed a 3-5 stack defense keyed by 320-pound nose guard T.J. Jefferson.”It takes two guys to block T.J. – or even three,” L’Hommedieu said. “He’s just too big, and for a guy his size, he’s not slow. We love this new defense.”
East (2-3) stoned Carson’s running game. Brandon Sloop, who lined up mostly at tailback but occasionally at fullback in Carson’s I-formation, is a strong, determined back who had nearly 1,000 yards as a freshman. He was limited to 38 yards on 18 carries. Once six sacks and an errant snap were calculated, Carson had 11 net rushing yards.
“We came in with the gameplan that Carson would run the ball on first down,” L’Hommedieu said. “We were able to get them in a lot of third-and-longs, and that’s when you get the sacks.”
East controlled the line of scrimmage throughout, but Carson had chances to turn the game. L’Hommedieu, a returning all-county player, was a thorn in Carson’s paw. He made some plays due to his experience. Other plays he made by hustle. And one play he made just by his stubborn refusal to give an inch.
With East leading 13-7 late in the first half, Carson faced fourth-and-2 at the East 32.
We’ll never know what the play-call was because L’Hommedieu tackled Carson QB Austin McNeill as soon as he accepted the snap.
“I just predicted the snap count would be on one,” L’Hommedieu explained. “I timed it, grabbed his legs and pulled him down.”
That play made certain East would hold the halftime lead.
“Carson didn’t vary the snap-count very much,” East coach Danny Misenheimer said. “Tyler has fast reflexes and good eyes. As soon as he saw the ball move, he tackled the quarterback.”
With East ahead 20-7 with seven minutes left to play, McNeill finally hit a big pass to the county’s leading receiver K.J. Pressley. The 33-yard pickup gave the Cougars the ball first-and-goal at the East 10. If Carson had scored there, who knows … but the Cougars didn’t score.
The key play was first down. This time Carson did’t run. Instead McNeill threw a surprise bubble screen to speedy receiver Ben Gragg. Gragg saw heavy traffic in front of him, so he reversed direction and tried to sprint all the way across the field. L’Hommedieu interrupted his daring dash for a 4-yard loss.
“A guard had cut me, and I was down,” L’Hommedieu said. “I got up and I saw Gragg coming back across to me.”
Watching that play unfold, Misenheimer initially thought Gragg was headed to the end zone.
“I was thinking, ‘Oh God, everybody’s blocked on that side,” the first-year head coach said. “But then Tyler pops up and makes the play.”
After Jefferson and Dock Corpening sacked McNeill on second down, Carson was pushed back to the 20.
McNeill was able to connect with Pressley on a third-down slant, but L’Hommedieu stopped him for a short gain. When Austin Hill and Corpening chased down McNeill on fourth down, the Mustangs owned another stop.
L’Hommedieu’s last big play didn’t affect who won and who lost, but it still meant something to East defenders and East fans.
On the game’s final play, McNeill completed a pass to Gragg at the East 1, but L’Hommedieu grabbed him and wouldn’t budge.
“The easy thing there, knowing we’d won the game, would’ve been to just let him score,” Misenheimer said. “Tyler didn’t do that. He drove him back and just kept driving. It meant a shutout for our defense. To shut out Carson with the kind of players they have, it should give our defense a lot of confidence.”