Friday Night Hero: Carson’s Isaac Bell
Published 12:44 am Thursday, November 10, 2016
By Mike London
CHINA GROVE — Among other things, Carson senior linebacker Isaac Bell now leads Rowan County in rushing yards per carry.
Sure he’s only had one carry, but it went for 15 yards.
“He thinks he’s a running back now,” joked Carson coach Joe Pinyan.
The Cougars handed Bell, who is also Carson’s student body president, the ball on the last play of Friday’s 15-3 win against Cox Mill as a reward for a great game and a fine career. The rest is history.
“Well, I got about five reps with the offense in practice last week,” Bell said. “There were about 20 seconds left in the game and I was asking if I could please run the ball. I haven’t touched the ball much since middle school, but running the ball is a lot of fun.”
Carson entered last Monday’s practice with a six-game losing streak and the knowledge that it would be playing its final game of the regular season with one of its best players — safety Andrew Jerman — sidelined by a concussion.
There didn’t seem to be much reason for optimism, and as soon as the Cougars immediately botched a play in practice, Pinyan called a prayer meeting.
“Coach told us, ‘Look guys, if we win Friday we’re in the playoffs. Win and we’re in,'” Bell said. “That got everyone focused.”
The Cougars (4-7, 3-6 SPC), finally were able to put the losing streak behind them. That skid included unexpected losses to South Rowan and Northwest Cabarrus, the South Piedmont Conference’s ninth and 10th-place teams.
“South Rowan and Northwest, those losses hurt,” Bell said. “Honestly, those are teams I think we beat nine out of 10 times. But this was that 10th time.”
Cox Mill was in the same win-and-we’re-in boat as the Cougars on Friday in China Grove, but Carson was celebrating Senior Night. The Cougars played a little better and maybe a little harder, and Cox Mill was missing its starting quarterback.
Bell jumped on a fumble near the Carson sideline early in the contest.
“Austin Cain knocked the ball loose, and I saw it rolling,” Bell said. “I thought about trying to scoop and score, but instead I dived for it to make sure we got the turnover.”
Bell led a Carson defense that came close to pitching a shutout. He made nine solo tackles and had four assists. He made four of those tackles in the Cox Mill backfield.
Bell was the all-county long snapper last season, following in the footsteps of brother, T.J., who is the long snapper for Wingate. But this season has been more exciting for him. For the first time, he’s also been a starting linebacker.
“Bell is one of those kids that you show him the defensive game plan on Monday and he’s memorized it by Tuesday,” Pinyan said. “He would see the formation Cox Mill was running, and he knew exactly what play that was coming.”
He also knew exactly when the play was coming.
“I had their snap count timed after their first series,” Bell said. “Our defensive linemen were doing a great job of tying up blockers, we were running a lot of stunts. I was getting a free release most of the time. That’s where the tackles for loss were coming from.”
Still, it was Cox Mill that scored first — on a 49-yard field goal with 3:40 left in the first half.
“We probably should’ve shut them out as well as our defensive played,” Pinyan said. “That field goal was on me. Our coaches and players wanted to go for the block, and maybe we could’ve blocked it. But it’s 49 yards. How many high school kids are going to kick one 49 yards? I figured, the way things were going for us, we go after it and we probably run into the kicker and give them a first down. So we played it safe — and the kid (John Brosnahan) nailed it.”
Momentum finally swung Carson’s way on the last play of the half. After some Carson trickery failed, and with time for one more snap, Pinyan sent 6-foot-3 cornerback Brenden Westbrook into the game at wide receiver.
“I was standing there next to Coach, wondering what we were going to try,” Bell said. “Coach told (quarterback) Owen White to just throw it up there and give Westbrook a chance. Westbrook is a freak. He went up and got it, and we had a touchdown.”
And after a PAT by Grayson Owens — Bell made the snap — Carson had a 7-3 lead at the break.
“Bell does so many things for us,” Pinyan said.
Carson’s offense controlled the ball in the second half — reaching 200 rushing yards — and Carson’s defense continued to hold the Chargers.
“And then we had a drive that lasted about two days,” Pinyan said.
James Kotcamp had been having most of the successful runs for the Cougars, but it was Bailey Rayfield who suddenly squirted through a hole for a 9-yard touchdown with 2:12 remaining to clinch the game.
Then White flipped a pass to Bell for the 2-point conversion. That’s another thing Bell leads the county in — 2-point conversions. It was his sixth of the season.
“They actually had me well-covered, but Owen is a great athlete,” Bell said. “He had a guy right in his face, but he made the throw sidearm like he was throwing to first base from shortstop. The pass went between a lot of hands and fingers, and I was able to catch it.”
For the Carson football program it was a huge win. The losing streak is over, and while the Cougars will be on the road against a strong opponent in the first round, at least they’re still kicking.
For Bell, whose father, Tim, was the 1986 Rowan County Defensive Player of the Year as a South Rowan Raider, the best part of Friday night’s win during the moments after the game.
“I had some people come up and tell me I’d played like my father used to play,” Bell said. “It was good to hear that. It was about the best compliment I’ve ever had.”