CHINA GROVE — For the record, Carson coach Joe Pinyan wasn’t jubilant after Carson beat West Rowan 28-21.
So much emotion had been drained from him and so much pride was spilling out of him for his new school and his new team that his words came slowly and quietly.
“I told the guys coming out of the locker room that the courage of this program was going to be tested,” Pinyan said. “And it was.”
The story goes that when Lord Cornwallis surrendered his troops at Yorktown to end the American Revolution, the British band, victims of a major upset, played “The World Turned Upside Down.”
Both bands could’ve played that tune at Carson on Friday where the world of Rowan football was effectively turned upside down.
Carson’s previous seven meetings with West Rowan had been Bug vs. Windshield affairs, usually over at halftime, and none closer than 20 points.
But this time the Cougars (4-2, 2-1 SPC) broke through, and Pinyan, who had known only defeat against West Rowan during his successful decade at Salisbury, broke through at the same time.
“I don’t think this win really sunk in until I saw the fans charging the field,” Carson QB Austin McNeill said. “I don’t ever cry, but I started bawling like a baby.”
Brandon Sloop scored twice for the Cougars. Daisean Reddick scored two TDs for West (4-2, 2-1).
Carson won it with defense more than anything.
“We had a few big plays, so we had decent rushing yardage, but we never had a drive all night,” West coach Scott Young said. “We thought we’d be able to block their defensive front, but we couldn’t.”
West was missing standout offensive lineman Chris Hassard. West also was missing receivers Chris Patterson and Devin Parks, and that had to damage the passing game. Young didn’t dwell on the absences.
“Bad performance by us, but a very good one by Carson,” he said.
It was all West early. Tyler Kennedy scored on a 54-yard dash on a faked punt, and Reddick made Carson defenders look like statues when he blew by them three minutes later with the 67-yard run that put West on top 14-0.
Carson’s answer to being down 14-0 in a hurry, wasn’t what was expected.
“We’re thinking the rout is on,” Young said. “And then they shove it down our throat for six minutes.”
Carson pounded the ball, often with fullback Tommy Dang, on a physical 68-yard drive. McNeill’s 16-yard pass to Brandon Huneycutt on fourth-and-4 finished it, and the Cougars were on the board.
Back-to-back picks by the Cougars followed swiftly. The first was by safety Will Zentmeyer.
“I was able to stay inside the receiver, and the ball just hits me,” Zentmeyer. “I got some great blocks. I was mad at myself I didn’t get to the end zone.”
He got close, to the 5. Sloop punched it in, and it was 14-14 in the middle of the second quarter.
A minute later, spur Tre Williams jumped a screen pass, turned it into a pick-6 following tough blocks, and the Cougars led 21-14.
“The coaches kept telling me the screen was coming,” Williams said. “I’m just on top of the world right now. You play West Rowan and you know you’re going to be in battle. Tonight, we battled.”
Williams’ play gave Carson a 21-14 lead at the break. West made adjustments, made it tougher for Carson to run in the second half, and when West’s defense created a short field in the middle of the third quarter, Reddick scored on a 19-yard burst for 21-all.
Carson’s decisive 66-yard drive bridged the third and fourth quarters, and the Cougars in the trenches did the work.
On third-and-2 at the West 5 with 9:32 left, Sloop used a block by Henry Brown to find the end zone.
“We knew we had to be physical,” Brown said. “I hit my man right in the mouth on the TD, and Sloop cut right of my butt.”
Carson got second-half picks from Max Lear and Jonathan Rucker, and when Darren Isom fought for a first down with two minutes left, West was out of timeouts, and it was all over.
“You can’t beat West by trying to out-finesse them or out-smart them,” Pinyan said. “You can only beat them by being even more physical than they are. The courage of our program was tested tonight, and it did not fail. Down 14-0, these kids did not flinch.”
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