GRANITE QUARRY — Carson’s first football win in 2008, after an 0-22 start, brought tears of joy.
Then the Cougars’ first-round playoff victories in 2009 and 2010 brought elation.
Still, Friday’s seesaw 32-28 NPC triumph at East Rowan may have been the most emotional win the Cougars have produced in their 86-game football history. Arguably, they beat the best team they’ve ever beaten, and they beat a huge rival in front of an overflow crowd on the road — on homecoming, no less.
Carson also pulled out a game that it looked overmatched in for almost the entire first half.
“I’m tickled for our kids and coaches,” Carson coach Joe Pinyan said. “I’m an old goat coming to this school and teaching them different things than what they’re used to, but they hung in there tonight and got a great win. Now we’re back even (2-2, 1-1 SPC), and we’ll go from here.”
Carson QB Austin McNeill had zero passing yards, but he looked at least as thrilled as Pinyan.
“Coach had us fired up, but there’s only so much a coach can say,” McNeill said. “We’ve been losing games in the second half, but tonight we got it done in the second half and we had fun doing it. I can’t remember ever winning a game that felt so great.”
Samuel Wyrick passed for 187 yards for the Mustangs (2-2, 1-1). He threw touchdown passes to Seth Wyrick and Noah Drye in the first half, and he also ran for a score.
Wyrick apparently missed a second rushing TD by an inch in the second half. East fans were sure he broke the plane of the goal-line on a short run, but when the ball was knocked loose it was ruled a fumble, and Ryan Bearden made a pivotal recovery in the end zone for the Cougars.
In the first half, Carson couldn’t move the ball and was abused by East’s offense.
“East is very dangerous,” Pinyan said. “They can throw it long, they can throw it short, and they can run it. They’re really hard to stop.”
Carson was in the game at halftime because of a special teams play — Patrick Ratliff scored a TD on a blocked punt — and one successful snap — a 47-yard gallop by Tyler Reynolds that led to a TD plunge by Brandon Sloop.
East led 21-12 at the break.
“We needed a new mindset,” said Sloop, who scored three TDs. “We just had to get our attitude back, and I give our offensive line and our defense credit for doing that. They won this game.”
Darren Isom opened the second half for the Cougars with a long kickoff return, and Carson got a quick TD.
Then linebacker Tre Williams made a play — jumping a slant route for a sudden pick that turned momentum’s Carson’s way to stay.
East got 101 rushing yards from Jake Boltz and took a 28-25 lead on a Max Wall scoring run late in the third quarter.
But Carson owned the line of scrimmage in the second half. Sloop’s third TD provided the decisive points with 7:28 left, and it was all over when Tyrese Paul picked off a desperate fourth-down pass on East’s final play.
“Carson played a good ballgame,” East coach Danny Misenheimer said. “They played more physical up front than we did and I think they just wanted it a little more.”