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NW Cabarrus romps past East Rowan, 42-7

Mustangs struggle for third straight week

NWC’s Cam Saunders 4 breaks up a pass intended for Gabe Hinceman 11 in the endzone and was then flagged for unsportsman like conduct. … Photo by Wayne Hinshaw, for the Salisbury Post

By David Shaw

sports@salisburypost.com

GRANITE QUARRY — East Rowan’s final non-conference tuneup left much to be desired Friday night.

The Mustangs spent two-and-a-half hours doing very little to excite anyone about their prospects in the upcoming North Piedmont Conference season, dropping a 42-7 homecoming game decision to visiting Northwest Cabarrus.

“It’s really been the same picture for us the last three weeks,” coach John Fitz said, after East (3-3) suffered its third straight loss. “We’ve moved the ball, gotten inside the red zone and stalled out. That’s what we’ve been looking at.”

East painted a discouraging picture against Northwest (5-0), which used its pound-and ground running game to control both the clock and the scoreboard. The Trojans rushed for 261 yards, led by junior Tyrese Blake, who gained 200 straight-ahead yards and scored a pair of touchdowns. Winning quarterback Nick Wilds-Lawing passed for 104 yards and three scores.

“Sometimes it was bad reads … sometimes it was missed tackles,” said East defensive end Elton Hooper. “And sometimes, the play call wasn’t right. It was kind of devastating.”

It got ugly in a hurry. Despite sacks by Hooper and teammate Brandon Jefferson on Northwest’s first possession, the guests converted on fourth-and-16 when Wilds-Lawing tossed a 33-yard TD pass to Israel Sturdivant.

“That’s been their M.O. all year,” Fitz said. “They do that to everybody. We had man coverage across the board, but we gave them too much room. The kid cut across the field and was wide open. And that quarterback is very good. He’s been accurate on film all season.”

Fitz won’t be happy when he goes to the movies this week. He’ll watch how Northwest went up 14-0 when Wilds-Lawing and Sturdivant hooked up on a 32-yard touchdown play midway through the opening quarter. And how the deficit grew to 21-o when a 5-yard pickup by East running back Sammy Pinckney abruptly turned into Eli Eason’s 72-yard fumble return for a touchdown just two minutes later.

“Their whole team was grabbing for the ball,” said Pinckney, who lost the ball despite maintaining a tight, two-handed grip. “I thought I was tackled, down on the ground, waiting for the whistle. But I wasn’t. I was on top of somebody from their team. The kid just took it away from me.”

Northwest scored again before the first period expired. A partially blocked punt gave the Trojans a short field and Blake made it sting when he scored on a 5-yard plunge that made the score 28-0.

“We executed on offense, didn’t turn the ball over and got back to doing what we usually do,” said Northwest coach Brandon Gentry. “We were able to break some tackles and connect on some pass plays. And of course, Tyrese is just Tyrese.”

Blake scored his second touchdown with 7:34 remaining in the third quarter. This time he took a delayed handoff, found a seam up the middle and raced 74 yards into the end zone for a 35-0 lead.

“That can’t happen,” said Jefferson, a 275-pound junior DE. “It’s a pound-pound-pound kind of thing. You can never take a play off. They didn’t hit us with a lot of unexpected stuff. But if somebody doesn’t do their job, it’s already a broken play.”

East had limited success on offense. It rushed for 203 yards and got a too-late-to-matter, 6-yard TD run from Pinckney in the fourth quarter. But the Mustangs spent much of the night kicking in their stalls, particularly following a 16-play drive to the Northwest four in the second period. It yielded nothing when quarterback Logan Forbis missed Sam Wall in the end zone on a fourth-and-3 timing pattern.

“We called that play because our kid was consistently beating their kid,” Fitz said, shaking his head.

There was plenty of gloom in East’s post-game locker room — just not enough to discourage Hooper.

“We lost the game, but we still have heart,” he said. “We’re going back to the drawing board and will have a winning record before the playoffs.”

NOTES: Pinckney rushed for 110 yards on 20 carries and scored his fourth touchdown. … A running clock was used after Northwest took a 42-0 lead with 2:39 remaining in the third quarter. … The game was halted for 12 minutes in the opening period when a spectator in the East stands suffered a heart attack and was transported to the hospital. … Senior Sage Fann was named Homecoming Queen during a halftime pageant. … East gets a much-needed week off before opening its conference season Oct. 5 at West Rowan.

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