North Rowan shuts out Carson, 26-0

Published 3:17 am Saturday, September 8, 2018

By Marny Hendrick

CHINA GROVE — North Rowan delivered a one-two punch right of the gate Friday night at Carson, then used a strong defense to make it stand up for a 26-0 win.

Running back Malcolm Wilson ran for 243 yards on 18 carries, while senior quarterback Willis Mitchell passed for 234 yards, giving the Cavaliers all the firepower they would need for the night.

The North defense did its part by producing a second consecutive shutout that included three QB sacks, an interception and stands that stopped Carson on downs three times.

“I believe that was Malcolm’s best game of the season so far,” said North head coach Ben Hampton. “He is a great kid and a real workhorse for us, so we have to just keep feeding it to him.”

Hampton was also highly complimentary of Mitchell, whose participation was literally a game-time decision, due to a shoulder injury suffered the previous week. But Mitchell was ready to go at kickoff and he responded with a stellar all-around game.

“Willis was reading the secondary well and making his progressions,” Hampton said, “so I think it was his best outing, so far this year.”

For North Rowan (3-1), the win was its third in a row over Carson (2-2). The Cougars put up some solid numbers in the contest (122 rushing, 180 passing), but were simply unable to cash in on a number of opportunities.

“The bottom line is we moved the ball and they moved the ball,” said Carson head coach Joe Pinyan. “But we didn’t finish our drives and they finished their drives. If you don’t finish against a good team like North, it will come back to get you.”

The one-two punch by the Cavaliers started on the first play from scrimmage when Wilson broke up the middle, bounced off a couple of tackles and raced 54 yards to the Cougars’ 15-yard line. On the next play, Mitchell sprinted off left tackle for the touchdown and a 6-0 lead, just 26 seconds into the game.

Carson tried to answer with an eight-play drive down to the Carson 34 yard-line, behind quarterback Justin Smith. But on 4th-and-11, Smith’s tried to hit Jerry Cipres on a crossing pattern deep, but the pass fell short. It was the first of three times in the game that Carson was held on downs.

North wasted little time striking again as they reached midfield in two plays, then handed off to Wilson on a counter play right up the middle. The junior runner sprinted 51 yards for a touchdown with 6:46 left in the opening period, making it 13-0.

“I just ran hard to see if they wanted to tackle tonight, ” Wilson said. “But they didn’t seem to want to. But it was really our defense that did the job tonight. You can always count on those guys.”

After two running plays, Wilson posted 105 yards and a score on his way to a 154-yard first half and a 243-yard, two-touchdown game. He still feels he could do better. “I was alright tonight but I think I still have more in the tank than I showed tonight,” Wilson said.

It turns out his rushing effort was the ninth best all-time for North Rowan running backs, giving him 625 yards for the season with six TDs.

After the quick start, the game settled into a defensive battle that lasted until the end of the third quarter. North threatened in the third period, reaching the Cougar 17, but the drive fizzled on a penalty and a couple of high snaps that pushed them back.

Carson threatened in the period as well as a flea-flicker pass from Smith to his fellow quarterback and receiver Josh Lee reached the North 25. But a bad pitch play and an incompletion ended the drive on downs.

North finally got some breathing room as the third period ended when Mitchell hit receiver Quintous Smith for completions of 33 and 8 yards as the quarter ended. Mitchell then found Denerio Robinson over the middle for 22 yards to the Carson 5. On the next play, Wilson broke right up the middle for the touchdown and a 19-0 margin with 11:45 left.

The Cavaliers used a big play to settle the outcome midway in the final period when Mitchell scrambled at his own 25 and found senior receiver Russell Bacon, wide open in the deep middle. Bacon sprinted untouched the final 40 yards to complete a 75-yard scoring play. JD Weaver kicked the extra point to make the final margin 26-0.

North’s defense took over from there to slam the door. Defensive tackle Josiah Hawthorne posted two of his three sacks in the final five minutes in the most significant playing time of the season for the first-year senior. “That is my job to get back there and help the team,” Hawthorne. “I promised my momma I would come out here and make her proud.”

The Cavaliers closed out the game with an interception of Smith by Zay Davis that was returned 65 yards to the Carson 15-yard line, as the clock expired.

Carson came into the game averaging over 250 rushing yards per game but were held to 122 by the North defense, led by linebackers Nautica Patterson and Tyzai Lyles, and Hawthorne. Cougars’ quarterback Smith was the top rusher for his team with just 43 yards. Smith did pass for 150 yards on 11 completions as he and Lee went to the air 22 times, far more than Pinyan and the Cougars would like.

Carson will be on the road next Friday at Davie County while North will enjoy a bye week before opening its Yadkin Valley Conference schedule in two weeks at North Moore.