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Prep football: Another close loss for Carson

By Marny Hendrick

sports@salisburypost.com

HARRISBURG — It took three days to complete and because of the ebb and flow it was almost like four games in one.

Ultimately the Hickory Ridge Ragin’ Bulls created a couple of critical big plays to turn the game in their favor Monday and hold off the Carson Cougars, 44-36.

First it was a big kickoff return to grab the lead for good in the late third quarter. Then it was a fumble recovery with the game on the line with just under a minute left that wrapped it up.

The win firmly secured second place in the South Piedmont Conference for Hickory Ridge (9-1, 6-1 SPC). Carson (4-6, 3-4 SPC) is playing for its playoff life Friday when it closes the regular season at home against Cox Mill.

“If we win that one we’re 5-6 and if that gets us in the playoffs we will be a tough out for somebody,” Carson coach Joe Pinyan said. “If it doesn’t get us in we will just be heartbroken because we have had some heartbreaking losses this season.”

The contest started last Friday with Carson grabbing a two touchdown early only to allow the Bulls to come roaring back with 27 points in the second quarter. Then the rains came at halftime and postponed the conclusion until Monday.

Trailing 27-22, the Cougars did what they do best to start the third quarter Monday by grinding out a 78-yard scoring drive that took almost half of the third period. On fourth-and-4 at the Hickory Ridge 24, halfback Darren Isom found space around the left end and scored standing up. The two-point conversion failed , but the Cougars had the 28-27 lead and the momentum once again.

“Our plan was to come out here focused tonight and be ready for a tough rest of the ball game,” said Isom who finished with 127 yards and two touchdowns for the game.

Then in the blink of an eye everything changed again. On the ensuing kickoff senior Jarel Crawford sprinted free down the left sideline for 74 yards that gave Hickory Ridge the lead 34-28 with 6:11 left in the third quarter.

The sudden change of events left the Cougars shellshocked as Hickory Ridge forced a punt then drove for another score, capped by quarterback Greg Waslo’s five-yard dive.

The margin was 41-28 as the third period ended.

Sparked by a big special teams play, Carson had one more shot at redemption during the final five minutes. Ragin’ Bulls punter Palmer Dupree tried to run after a high snap and was drilled for an 18-yard loss by Garret Pell at the Hickory Ridge 24. Two plays later quarterback Andy Lear broke off an 11-yard TD run. Fullback Dylan Livengood ran in the two-point conversion and Carson was down 44-36 with 3:50 left.

An onside kick was recovered by Hickory Ridge, but Cougar linebacker Jacob McCurry pounced on a fumble. The dagger was Lear and Livengood misconnecting on a handoff in Hickory Ridge territory.

“We had a good play called there,” Pinyan said. “But we ended up laying it on the ground on the handoff. That is the nature of the beast.”

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