Block and tackle: Carson defense can’t hold Central Cabarrus
CONCORD — Call it a false start.
Carson’s SPC opener Friday night was supposed to answer a few questions, not raise them. Instead its 27-20 loss at Central Cabarrus was pocked with missed tackles, missed blocks and misreads — producing a missed opportunity.
“Offensively we didn’t do anything to help the defense out,” coach Joe Pinyan said after the Cougars suffered their first setback in three games. “And the defense didn’t do anything to help itself out. That was probably the worst game tackling and the worst game blocking we’ve had.”
Indeed. Carson played way too much defense against Central (2-1, 1-0), which drove for touchdowns on three of its first four possessions. The Vikings controlled the clock by running 77 plays from scrimmage and amassing 460 total yards, including 361 on the ground.
“We’re going to go against some really tough teams,” linebacker Alex Deal said after recovering a fumble and blocking a fourth-quarter field goal attempt. “That Monday night game hurt, but it’s no excuse. We’ve got to play tougher than this.”
Most damaging was the work of Central quarterback Tyler English and running back Demarcus Alexander. English played like he’d been dipped in grease, corkscrewing his way for 98 yards rushing and 99 passing, including first-half touchdowns Terron Gregory and Graham Whittle. He left the game late in the third period after sustained a cramp.
Alexander steamrolled for 135 yards and opened the scoring when he plowed up the middle on a 9-yard TD run midway through the first quarter.
“They showed us a different look than they’ve showed other teams,” said Carson senior Ryan Bearden. “Lots of wings. Lots of tight end formations that we weren’t prepared for.”
Carson held its only lead of the game in the first period when sophomore quarterback Owen White spiraled a short pass over the middle to Andy Lear, who shucked a defender and turned the play into a 55-yard touchdown. But Central answered with a seven-play, 84-yard scoring drive late in the opening quarter and never looked back.
“When we scored, we scored quick,” Pinyan said after Carson managed only six first downs. “We hit some big passes I guess. You can’t always do that. You’ve got to be able to sustain a drive and keep your defense off the field. We tried to hang around, but that’s hard when you’re always playing defense.”
It was still 14-7 late in the first half when Central faced a fourth-and-2 from its own 48-yard line. With a chance to reverse the game’s momentum, Carson’s defense dug in as English brought the Vikings to the line. He used a hard count to lure several Cougars offside, providing a first down that led to a back-breaking TD moments later.
“You tell those guys up front to watch the ball,” Pinyan said. “They were ready to go, trying to make a big play.”
Central never reached the end zone in the second half, but settled for a pair of field goals to boost its lead to 27-13 with 7:11 remaining. Again ball control was a key as the Vikings took 18 snaps in Carson territory in the fourth quarter.
Carson did make one more charge up the hill in the waning moments when it scored on a 90-yard hook-and-ladder play. White took a snap and zipped a short pass to Brandon Huneycutt in the right flat. Honeycutt flipped the ball to Austin Lear, who motored untouched down the right sideline and into the end zone with 2:31 to play.
“It’s our secret weapon,” White said after passing for 145 yards. “They were in a man-to-man coverage. Once they saw the ball go to one guy they all collapsed, leaving a lot of green grass.”
Added Huneycutt: “We run that play every day at practice, and practice makes perfect. You can’t execute it any better than that.”