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Turnovers cost East Rowan in loss to Robinson

By Marny Hendrick
sports@salisburypost.com

GRANITE QUARRY — For the second consecutive week, the East Rowan Mustangs found itself embroiled in a high scoring shootout with one of the top teams in the South Piedmont Conference. This time, turnovers cost East any chance at a win.

J.M. Robinson came in on Homecoming night, picked off four passes, grabbed two fumbles and turned almost all of them into points in a decisive 49-23 win Friday night. The Bulldogs led, 14-0, before East ever touched the ball on offense and 21-0 — eight minutes into the game. When the dust settled, Robinson (7-2, 6-1 SPC) racked up 344 rushing yards on 51 carries while senior quarterback Josh Dale passed for 257 yards and three touchdowns in the win.

“We started out really well,” winning coach Joe Glass stated of the quick scoring start. “That has not been our ‘M.O.’ this season but our kids did a great job of coming out and showing they were ready to play.”

The Mustangs (3-6, 2-5 SPC) displayed a strong passing game for the second week in a row, this time from sophomore Justin Smith who got the start and produced 238 aerial yards and a pair of touchdown passes. But he also was picked off three times. “I think I did pretty good throwing it tonight but those turnovers just killed us,” Smith said. “That is what really decided this game.”

Smith hit Steven Hardin midway in the third period from 7 yards out to cap a 66-yard scoring drive. Wesley Porter keyed the drive for the Mustangs from the slot position with a 26-yard run on a reverse and a 22-yard catch over the middle down to the Bulldog 7.

Robinson responded with a 5-yard TD run by Dominique Wiley to make it 42-15 then struck again quickly as senior defensive back Baarkaiar Anderson snared the second of his three interceptions for the game. That set up a 28-yard scoring strike from Dale to big receiver Javonte Misenheimer (5 catches-118 yards) to make it 49-15 with 2:59 left in the third.

Despite the big margin, the Mustangs refused to fold, producing the most electrifying play of the game early in the fourth quarter. Backed up to the 20, Smith flipped a quick screen pass over the middle to senior speedster Max Wall who broke free down the left sideline, head-faked the last defender at the 10 and completed the 80-yard scoring play. Wall then tossed a two-point conversion pass to Zach Simpson to wrap up the scoring at 49-23.

Wall had also scored the first Mustang touchdown on a 15-yard run to complete a 65-yard drive and ran in the two-point conversion as well. But a pair of first half fumbles and two interceptions stopped the Mustang offense in their tracks as they trailed 35-8 at the half and could never recover.

“We just have to execute better on both offense and defense,” senior wide receiver Franklin Downing said. “Those turnovers just killed us tonight.” Downing had one of his best nights of the season with 6 catches for 83 yards including a 39-yarder over the middle. “I took what they gave me tonight but at the same time I had to work for it to get open,” Downing said.

East travels to Central Cabarrus next Friday then closes out their regular season at home against South Rowan the following week. Robinson is now back in a three-way tie for the SPC lead with West and Concord with a showdown looming with the Spiders in two weeks. Bulldog coach Glass refused to look ahead. “We will focus on South Rowan next week and let the chips fall whee they may when Concord week comes around,” he said.

NOTES — East Rowan celebrated homecoming during the game after having the festivities postponed two weeks ago by Hurricane Matthew. Senior Hannah Mayhew was crowned the 2016 Mustang homecoming queen. Earlier in the week, Sawyer Russell was elected homecoming king.

Senior Wesley Porter had another solid defensive game for East with a sack, a couple of touchdown-saving tackles and a blocked field goal in the fourth quarter. Zach Simpson had a fumble recovery for the Mustangs in addition to his two-point conversion catch.

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