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Prep Football: Carson at West game

By Mike London

mike.london@salisburypost.com

MOUNT ULLA — West Rowan quarterback Kacey Otto became the first Rowan player to surpass 500 yards of total offense in a game on Friday, and the Falcons needed every one of his 504 yards to beat Carson 28-27 in overtime.
Otto threw for a school-record 337 yards and rushed for 167 in a monumental first-round 3A playoff game. Otto got a lot of help from big-play receivers Kortez Weeks (six catches, 173 yards) and Juwan Houston (four catches, 124 yards).
“Just very proud of our guys for showing a lot of character,” West coach Joe Nixon said. “We looked a lot of adversity in the eye, but we didn’t blink. We knew it would be tough. It’s tough to beat a good team twice, but we found a way.”
It was tied 21-all at the end of regulation. West finally prevailed in overtime when Otto scored his third rushing TD, and Austin Morrison, who had a 32-yard field goal attempt deflected on the last play of regulation, delivered the decisive PAT.
Carson had gotten the ball first in the OT period, and Andy Lear scored on second down, but Cole Howard’s PAT kick was unsuccessful. That left the Cougars with a precarious 27-21 advantage. It didn’t last long.
Sixth-seeded West (9-3) had to dig out of a 21-7 hole to beat 11th-seeded Carson (7-5) for the second straight year in Mount Ulla in overtime.
“That’s all I can think about right now,” said Carson safety Andrew Jerman, who helped block Morrison’s field-goal try. “Two years in a row in overtime we’ve lost here. It’s tough. We had a lot of momentum going into the second half, but we lost it.”
West scored first. Otto hit Weeks for a 29-yard gain on a third-and-7 to move the ball to the Carson 23. Then Otto bolted through a huge hole and scored from the 14.
“Our offensive line blocked their tails off tonight,” Weeks said.
The last six minutes of the first quarter, Carson played the best six minutes of football in school history. The Cougars scored 21 sudden points.
Carson QB Owen White hit Brandon Huneycutt with two big completions to set up a 4-yard scoring run by Andy Lear for a 7-all tie.
When Carson linebacker Jacob McCurry stopped Otto for a loss to force a punt, Carson got the ball back quickly, and White scored a go-ahead TD on a 9-yard bootleg.
Another quick West 3-and-out — McCurry did more damage — led to another West punt. Carson linebacker Alex Deal blocked it at the West 26. Fullback Dylan Livengood scooted for a TD, and Howard’s PAT put Carson ahead 21-7.
“We had a great first quarter,” Carson coach Joe Pinyan said. “It seemed like it would never end.”
The first half included a flurry of West mistakes. Martavio Rankin lost a fumble at the end of a big pass play. In addition to having a punt blocked, the Falcons gave away a possession when a short punt by Howard glanced off a Falcon’s leg and Carson recovered.
But West’s defense, led by L.J. Robinson and Devin Turner began digging in, and Carson stayed stuck on 21 throughout the second quarter. And the third. And the fourth.
“Carson was playing fast early and they’ve got a really nice fullback (Livengood),” Turner said. “They were moving the ball on us. We just had to decide to come together and start stopping them.”
West had a golden chance to score late in the first half. Weeks pulled down a pass that Carson corner Armoni Hogue seemed certain to intercept and turned it into a 61-yard gain to the Carson 2.
But in the final seconds of the first half, Carson held.
Several Cougars sacked Otto at the 10-yard line on the final play of the half. That sent Carson to the locker room with a 14-point lead and all kinds of momentum.
“We knew we were going to have to dig deep in the second half, but we knew we’d been down big against Carson last year and we’d come back to win in overtime,” Otto said. “We’ve been down quite a few times this year and still come back. There was still a half to play, and we were going to keep fighting.”
The Falcons were backed up early in the third quarter and a fumble nearly proved disastrous. The ball was bouncing around loose inside the West 5. The Falcons were fortunate to recover.
Had Carson gotten that ball, the Cougars would’ve been on the verge of going up 28-7.
“We tried to scoop and score instead of just falling on it,” Pinyan said. “We missed a lot of opportunities that could have put us in great position to beat one of the best teams in the state.”
A Carson personal foul got the Falcons out of the hole. Then Otto hit a streaking Houston in stride on a post pattern for a 79-yard touchdown.
“Houston has great speed,” Otto said. “We were able to take advantage of it.”
Carson still led 21-14, but Houston’s catch is where it turned the Falcons’ way.
“Coming in we felt like we could stop every running play they had,” said McCurry, who had five tackles for loss. “But they hit so many big pass plays. That was the difference.”
Early in the fourth quarter, Robinson led the charge as the Falcons stopped White on a fourth-and-1 sneak at the West 30-yard line.
West drove for the tying score and got it with 9:20 remaining on a 26-yard keeper by Otto.
“As bad as the first half was, we were still able to get pumped up and play a strong second half,” Weeks said. “It was exciting.”
Safety Malcolm Ingram had two fourth-quarter interceptions for the Falcons to stop Carson drives.
After the second one, which came on a tip drill, West marched methodically to set up a winning field goal. But Carson got a piece of that field goal, and the game went to overtime.
Otto, who is West’s holder, said he had no doubt Morrison would put that field goal behind him and convert the winning PAT.
“I didn’t say anything to him,” Otto said. “We had all the confidence in the world in him.”
For Pinyan, it was the continuation of a long struggle against West Rowan. He never won against the Falcons while coaching some strong Salisbury teams. Now he’s 1-3 against West at the helm of the Cougars, with two painful OT losses.
“We played our hearts out and people got a view of a Carson team that’s improved tremendously in the last few weeks,” Pinyan said. “They’re a lot more physical than we are, but we still had all kinds of chances to win it. That could very well be us moving on, instead of them.”
West will travel to play third-seeded West Henderson next Friday.

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