Published 12:00 am Saturday, November 16, 2013

CHINA GROVE — Rain poured, and Carson quarterback Austin McNeill didn’t mind.
The weather helped to mask the senior’s tears.
“We wanted to leave here with a bang, and I know we did that,” said McNeill, who put one last Cougar TD on the board with a dive to the pylon with 14 seconds left. “We all knew this was going to be like ‘Facing the Giants,’ but we put up a fight.”
Forestview beat Carson 63-48 on Friday in the first round of the 3A state playoffs, and even though Forestview was the road team, there was no doubt the stronger, more talented team won.
“We’ve faced power teams and we’ve faced speed teams,” Carson linebacker Anthony McCurry said. “Forestview is both. That’s hard to stop.”
Forestview (8-4) didn’t have star quarterback Logan Bradley (knee), but J.C. Crawford made key plays filling in for him, and Moe Neal, a sophomore with a huge future, wrecked the Cougars (7-5) with 289 rushing yards and five TDs.
Forestview’s size controlled the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball — and that’s usually where the Cougars win ballgames.
Carson had 12 negative running plays and was held to 95 net rushing yards. Carson’s previous low this year was 156 against North Rowan.
Carson made it a game on the strength of the last 100 seconds of the first half when the Cougars turned a 35-14 deficit that looked hopeless into a 35-all halftime deadlock with a flurry of TDs.
McNeill’s 12-yard rushing TD started the charge.
Then Max Lear blocked a punt that Tre Williams took to the end zone with 14 seconds left in the half.
After Tyrese Paul picked off a pass, coach Joe Pinyan tried his hook-and-ladder play one more time. McNeill tossed short to Brandon Huneycutt, and Huneycutt’s lateral went to a flying Darren Isom. That play covered 70 yards to end the half, and it sent Cougars bouncing to the locker room.
The decisive moments occurred in the Forestview locker room at halftime where coach Chris Medlin must have said all the right things.
“Those last two minutes of the first half we had breakdowns every possible way and things snowballed on us,” Medlin said. “But no one pointed fingers, and we kept our composure. That’s a sign of having 24 seniors.”
Carson scored first in the second half. Lear blocked another punt to set up a McNeill-to-Isom TD pass. Carson led 42-35 and had reeled off 28 unanswered points.
Neal retaliated with another trip to the end zone, but Lear blocked the PAT to keep the Cougars ahead 42-41 late in the third quarter.
“Right there, if we can make one more big play on offense, and then get a stop, I think we win,” Pinyan said. “But we couldn’t do it. I don’t think our kids lost this one, so much as Forestview won it. They made play after play.”
Forestview just kept scoring and clinched with a clock-eating march for a 63-42 lead.
“We imposed our will against a strong, quality team,” Medlin said.
It was a memorable game.
“It was a fun game,” Pinyan said. “Everything about it was fun except the outcome.”