Prep Football: Mustangs clinch win with 4th-and-1 play
CONCORD — It was a hard yard, but a fierce, fourth-down surge by East Rowan’s offensive line clinched a 28-21 conference victory at Central Cabarrus on Monday.
The Mustangs threw caution to the wind on fourth-and-1 at their 29 with 2 minutes, 30 seconds left in the fourth quarter. When quarterback Samuel Wyrick moved the chains on a sneak, East Rowan (5-5, 4-3 SPC) was headed for a tough victory that probably wrapped up a state playoff berth.
“We’ve done that a lot lately, as far as getting first downs on short yardage,” East Rowan lineman Daniel Jones said. “Getting a yard meant winning this game. We wanted to go for it, We told the coaches we’d get it. Then we had a great push.”
Lightning brought a stoppage of play Friday with a 7-7 tie early in the third quarter. Wyrick had scored a rushing TD for East Rowan, while Daiyaan Fuller, the Vikings’ athletic QB, had broken a 42-yard score.
Play resumed Monday with 9:53 left in the third quarter.
East Rowan owned the line of scrimmage and put together a solid drive, mixing Max Wall’s runs with Wyrick’s short passes. The Mustangs got the go-ahead score on Wyrick’s flip to tight end Simon Soles.
“I just faked a block and slipped into the end zone and was open,” Soles said.
When East Rowan’s defense followed that TD by forcing a three-and-out that backed up Central Cabarrus, the Mustangs’ special teams came through. Wesley Porter, a cornerback who is generously listed at 5-foot-9, 145 pounds, rejected the Vikings’ punt. Seth Wyrick, who had 10 catches, won the scramble for the ball in the end zone. That put the Mustangs up 21-7.
“I helped him get in there, but that was mostly Wesley — he just went and got that ball,” Wyrick said. “That was a momentum changer.”
After the Mustangs stopped Central Cabarrus again, Wall turned a little swing pass into the touchdown that put East Rowan ahead 28-7 in the opening seconds of the fourth quarter. It was the 65th TD pass of Wyrick’s career — one short of the Rowan County record — but Wall did the heavy lifting. He pinballed off two Vikings and outran several more down the left sideline.
“The linebacker on my side was blitzing, so I knew I’d be wide open if Sam saw me,” Wall said. “The cornerback was worried about 18 (Seth Wyrick), so I had a chance to make a big play.”
It appeared the Mustangs might cruise, but Central Cabarrus struck for a sudden Fuller-to-Joseph Dorton touchdown pass, got the ball back on an interception by Nagee Patterson and pounded for another TD. When Central Cabarrus (5-5, 2-5) scored with 3:30 left, the Mustangs’ lead was down to 28-21.
The Vikings kicked off deep. East Rowan took over at its 20. Three runs by Wyrick and Wall moved the ball to the 29. The scoreboard clock said 2:30. East Rowan coach Kenneth McClamrock faced a tough decision on fourth down. He didn’t hesitate. He kept his offense on the field.
“A factor was our defense was playing extremely well and we had confidence in them if we didn’t make it,” McClamrock said. “Also we’d gotten three first downs on sneaks on Friday, and the big kids were just demanding to go for it. When the big kids want it, you go. We’ve got a lot of beef upfront.”
Beef moved the chains. It also helped that Samuel Wyrick was 24-for-29 passing for 264 yards. It added up to a weird, two-part win for McClamrock, who lives a few miles from Central Cabarrus.
“It was our chance to play Monday night football, and we had fun with it,” Seth Wyrick said. “We beat a good team.”
Mike London: 704-797-4259; twitter.com/