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Prep football: Warhorses runover Hornets

By Tyler Norris Goode

The Asheville Citizen-Times

BLACK MOUNTAIN — Not even a running clock could keep Jager Gardner from breaking two major records Friday night.

Owen’s speedy senior became Buncombe County’s and WNC’s all-time leading rusher against overmatched Salisbury on Friday night, and the Warhorses eased into the third round of the N.C. High School Athletic Association 2A playoffs with a 56-7 victory.

Salisbury, the No. 8 seed in the 2A West, ended the season 6-7 overall. The Hornets scored just 28 points in their final three games.

The season started rough for the Hornets, but they receovered to win four straight Central Carolina Conference games. Salisbury was runner-up in the league to North Rowan.

The Warhorses dominated all facets against Salisbury (6-7).

Owen’s defense swarmed to the ball all night and held the Hornets without a first down in the opening 12 minutes.

The Warhorses’ special teams scored a touchdown on Tucker Lowery’s fumble recovery in the end zone, and Zee Johnston caught scoring passes of 20 and 42 yards from quarterback Sam Drummond.

Gardner broke the Buncombe County mark on a 29-yard scoring gallop less than eight minutes into the contest.

After that, the only suspense left was whether he’d break the old WNC mark of 6,792 yards that East Henderson’s Michael Angram established in 2005. With 2:53 remaining, his 14-yard run set the new standard.

His 226 yards on Friday gave him 6,806 heading into next week’s home game against No. 4 Mount Pleasant, which defeated No. 5 North Rowan 42-14 on Friday.

“We wanted to do some record-breaking stuff tonight,” Owen coach Kenny Ford said. “We tied a school record, and we’re going to the third round.”

About Gardner, Ford said: “He’s very humble. He never boasts about it. We knew he was going to be a special kind of kid. There’s five linemen (Dexter Andrews, Tyler Clapp, Mason Eades, Seth Penley and Justin Wilson) up front who are so cohesive and fun to watch, so he’s got a good surrounding party.”

Gardner himself was a factor defensively, delivering multiple hard hits and at least one tackle for a loss. He also caught a 52-yard pass that set up his one 1-yard touchdown run early in the second quarter.

“He’s a real physical player,” Salisbury coach Ryan Crowder said. “We’ve faced some guys that run the ball hard, but they’re not quite in that frame. He’s just a big ol’ kid.”

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