Published 12:00 am Saturday, September 14, 2013
CONCORD — After almost four full quarters of drama and hard nose football, it all came down to the big left hand of East Rowan linebacker Shiheem Saunders.
Saunders broke through the line to block a game tying extra point with just over three minutes left and secured a 21-20 Mustang win at Cox Mill last night.
It was the South Piedmont league opener for both teams and was truly as close as the score indicated.
East (1-0, 2-1) had rallied to take a 21-14 with just over four minutes left thanks to a remarkable 80 yard clock eating drive covering seven minutes. Quarterback Sam Wyrick capped it with a five yard keeper.
But Cox Mill (0-1, 1-3) stunned the Mustangs just two plays later when Hunter Longmire hit a wide open Devon Cobb for a 74 yard catch and sprint. Only the extra point by Tyler Kemo was needed to knot it up again with 3:21 left.
“Before he snapped it I was like I’m going to block this kick,” Saunders recalled. “I was not going to let them win. I got it with my left hand, left palm and it still stings. But we won the game.”
The lightning strike by the Chargers almost negated a stellar running effort by the Mustangs, especially in the second half after they fell behind 14-7.
First was a 49 yard drive in which they converted twice on fourth down and tied it on Wyrick’s 16 yard scamper. Then came the 80 yard drive that chewed up almost all of the final period as Wyrick, Jake Boltz, Max Wall and Tyler Lloyd pounded out tough yards.
“That’s my game,” junior fullback Boltz noted. “I focus on short yards and try to get at least 3 1/2 each carry. I get to the hole as fast as I can and get those yards.” He scored the first TD of the game on a one yard run and had 21 carries for 81 yards for the night. Wyrick had 62 yards on 20 carries and two rushing scores while Wall had 60 more.
The Mustang running game was best defined by their whopping 56 carries for 215 yards, an average of just 3.6, but that is how the Mustangs roll.
“We know we can run the ball,” Wyrick said in noting he didn’t have a particularly good passing night. “That is what we had to stick with. We went hurry up in the fourth quarter and we are very comfortable with that.”
The passing game was not as sharp as Wyrick was picked off twice and had no TD passes. He did find his brother Seth nine times for 92 yards.
Mustang Coach Danny Misenheimer was thrilled to get a league win on the road and felt his team battled back especially in the final period with their running attack.
“The thing is these kids have got to understand and believe in themselves,” he said. “They should expect to do that everytime. But we are obviously happy to come out of here with a win.”
The host Chargers got a workhorse effort from halfback Tre Knox with 151 yards on 21 carries but they self destructed on several occasions and that proved decisive.
“That has kind of been our M.O. the last several weeks,” Cox Mill coach Craig Stewart stated. “We play great at times then we have just one little thing that kills us.”
Against East it was a bad snap on a fourth and goal in the first half, a number of ill-timed penalties, and some crucial sacks by the Mustang defense against Longmire in the second half.
Robert Barringer, Saunders, Bradley Newsome Dock Corpening all recorded sacks. Barringer also had a fumble recovery.
The Mustangs are home next week to face county and SPC rival Carson.