CHINA GROVE — The Carson Cougars went from charmed to scary good Friday night as they used their full arsenal to roll past county neighbor South Rowan, 48-6. The Cougars racked up 516 yards in total offense while their defense had two goal line stands and six sacks to highlight a total team effort.
“We just came together as a team, played hard and executed our plan,” defensive star linebacker Myquon Stout said. Senior offensive tackle Lucas Safrit had the same thoughts.
“If we work together as a team, wonderful things can happen,” Safrit said. “I am proud of our whole team , especially our offensive line.”
Carson won their fourth in a row, improving to 3-1 in the SPC, 5-2 overall. The Raiders gave a solid effort with their rebuilt offense but fell to 0-5 in the SPC, 0-7 overall.
The keys for the Carson success in this game involved doing the unexpected and using a wide array of offensive weapons. The Cougars surprised South by coming out of the gate with an unexpected aerial assault from quarterback Austin McNeill. “Coach told us he wanted to throw the ball eight out of the first 12 plays tonight,” McNeill said. “So that gave me a chance. I’m sure they thought we were going to run Sloop and our other backs to death.”
McNeill responded with three TD passes and 196 yards on a near-perfect 7 for 9 effort. It also gave him 3349 career passing yards, just 131 yards short of the school passing record held by Zack Gragg.
“We threw it pretty good,” Cougar coach Joe Pinyan stated, “I was impressed with our throwing and catching and that put South in a bind early on.”
In the meantime, the Cougar ground game did just fine with a 315 yard night, using eight different runners. Brandon Sloop, the normal workhorse, only had 37 yards while fullback Tommy Dang had 50 yards, including a big 49 yard burst he called “…the longest run of my entire career.”
But the true weapon this game was junior Darren Isom with 62 yards and two rushing TDs on just four carries.
He also scored on a hook and lateral play that went from McNeill to receiver Brandon Huneycutt to Isom for a 57 yard scoring play just before the half. His 48 yard yard TD run at the end of the first quarter featured a devastating stiff arm that broke him loose. “I have been watching one of my favorites Adrian Peterson” Isom said. “ You just have to time it right to make it work.”
Isom’s performance in the game seemed even more impressive when he broke free for an 85 yard touchdown run with just under six minutes left to play. A block in the back penalty against the Cougars brought the play all the way back to the Cougar 17. Sophomore quarterback Andy Lear and other Carson reserves then chewed up yardage and the clock, capping the scoring with just over one minutes left on a 15 yard keeper by Lear.
Despite playing just three quarters, McNeill also had scoring passes to Huneycutt (54 yards) to open the game and receiver Andrew Hower (seven yards) to open the second half. The other Cougar score came on an 11 yard run by halfback Tyler Reynolds to cap a 55 yard drive late in the first quarter. Sloop’s two point conversion run made it 14-0 at the time.
South’s lone score came midway in the third period on a short TD pass from Eric Stowe to tight end Burke Fulcher. The Raiders came into the game handicapped by the loss of starting quarterback Aaron Kennerly to a broken collarbone in last Friday’s loss to NW Cabarrus. They turned the signal calling over to a duo of Stowe, a receiver, and sophomore QB Heath Barringer, up from the junior varsity. The two alternated throughout the game although Barringer took the majority of the snaps and seemed to get more confident as the game progressed.
“They did fine but we knew it would take a while to develop,” Raider Coach Jason Rollins noted of the quarterback issues. “You can’t go four practices and not have some bumps and some mess-ups. But all of our kids have a lot of heart and they always give us everything they have.”
The two quarterbacks, actually the entire offense for South, had problems solving the stout Cougar defense, getting sacked six times and netting only 125 yards of total offense. Runner back Derrick Blackwell was the most productive with 81 yards on 19 carries while receiver Peyton Penninger had four catches for 68 yards, all from Barringer. But their frustration was most evident when once in each half the Raiders had first and goal inside the Carson five but got stuffed each time. Stout (two sacks), linebackers Ryan Bearden and Patrick Ratliff and nose guard Tonny Dang led the Cougar defensive charge.
The Cougars face their toughest challenge on the road this Friday when they travel to take on undefeated SPC leader Concord. “We will definitely have to try and control the ball more in that one,” Pinyan noted. The winless Raiders have an equally tough task when they host 6-1 Central Cabarrus at home this Friday.
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