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Carson tops East Rowan, 37-34

By Marny Hendrick
sports@salisburypost.com

GRANITE QUARRY — With the game on the line and the clock running down, the Carson Cougars went to a play they borrowed from the Chicago Bears to nail down a tense 37-34 win Friday night at East Rowan. It worked not once, but twice.

Cougar coach Joe Pinyan saw the NFL Bears run a double reverse with an option pitch Sunday night so Monday morning he added the play to his offensive arsenal, then waited for the right time to use it.

The Carson defense rose up and stopped the Mustangs on downs with two minutes to play. They needed to run some plays and some clock to lock up a key North Piedmont Conference win at East on Homecoming night. So on second and nine at the East 27, it was time for the Bears play. Quarterback Cole Sifford handed off to Cameron Prugh who then reversed it to Josh Lee who then pitched it back to Sifford.

The first time the play went for 12 yards and a key first down, then two plays later it worked again as Sifford reached the East 5 with just 50 seconds left. Two more running plays and the clock expired to give Carson the win.

“I went back to the huddle and said I can’t believe that play just worked twice,” said Prugh after the game. “But it worked when we needed it.

Sifford, a 5-9 senior fireplug quarterback, agreed the special Bears play was critical at the end but he was more impressed with the overall effort the team gave throughout. “In a big rivalry game like that you got to have a lot of passion out there,” he said after passing for 151 yards and rushing for 70 more, “All night long we just played with a lot of passion. That’s Carson football where you just have to grind it out 4 or 5 yards at a time, get first downs and getting into the end zone at some point.”

The two county rivals have suffered a lot of disappointment this season but Friday night they battled toe to toe for the entire game. East (2-6, 0-2 NPC) took the early advantage thanks to the explosive talents of Sam Wall. The junior running back and receiver ran for 156 yards and two rushing TDs including a 57-yard in the first quarter to give the Mustangs a 15-7 lead.

But Carson (3-5, 2-0 NPC) battled back to tie it on a 65-yard TD bomb from Sifford to Hunter Courtney in the second period.

The high-scoring first half wrapped up with an 11-yard TD keeper by East quarterback Logan Forbis followed by a 1-yard keeper by Carson’s Sifford to knot the game at 23-23 at halftime.

The back-and-forth nature of the game change dramatically in the second half as the Cougars were able to impose the style of play they prefer, chewing up yardage and running the clock.

Carson’s defense opened the second half by stopping East at midfield on downs then the offense used 10 plays to take the lead for good.

A couple of big runs by Lee put Carson at the East 11 then Sifford lobbed a high pass to his 6-6 receiver Jamarius Hairston in the end zone. Despite falling down, Hairston secured the TD pass lying on his back to make it 30-23.

East added a Gabe Hinceman 30-yard field goal late in the third period to cut the margin to 30-26 but Carson had another long drive to open the final quarter, covering 62 yards in 14 plays while using over five minutes of valuable clock time. Jerry Cipres capped the drive with a 3-yard dive to make the score 37-26 with just over 7 minutes left.

The Mustangs kept it interesting with a 16-yard scoring pass from Forbis to Wall (3 catches for 84 yards) with 4:54 left to cut the lead to 37-34. But the Carson defense rose to the occasion with a key stop to preserve the win.

“We were a little bit startled there at the end but our defense got it back together,” said Cougar defensive back Jacob Taylor. “We were determined to stop them no matter what with the game on the line and made the big plays when it mattered.”

For Pinyan, whose team won for the second week in a row after a frustrating five-game losing skid, the victory was a special effort. “Our kids were absolutely phenomenal all night,” he said. “We are not going to big play anybody with this bunch but we did a great job of controlling the football, made some great long drives and hit a couple of big passes when we had to have them. We played with a lot of intensity and a lot of heart.”

Both teams have tough battles coming up next Friday in the NPC. Carson is at home against a strong Statesville team while the Mustangs, who have now lost five straight, will have to travel to Troutman to face league-leading South Iredell.

NOTES – During homecoming festivities at East last night, senior football player Noah Green was announced as the homecoming King while the Homecoming Queen crown went to senior Caroline Johnson.

East hurt themselves in the contest with nine penalties for 100 yards while Carson was whistled for just 25 yards. Both teams punted just one time in the game. For the second week in a row, East Rowan outrushed an opponent (283-201) but came up short on the scoreboard.

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