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West Rowan, explosive early, tops Carson, 35-15

Falcons start quick, defeat Carson

James Sipes/for the Salisbury Post …
Carson’s Jerry Cipres (22) chases a loose pitch out as most of the West Rowan defense closes in, Reggie Everhart (5) and Jason Artis (25) are closest the football. West recovered and scored on the ensuing drive.

By David Shaw

sports@salisburypost.com

MOUNT ULLA — It took all of two plays for West Rowan to show visiting Carson who was boss Thursday night.

By that early juncture, senior running back Jaden Perry had carried twice for 50 yards and set the tone for the Falcons’ 35-15 NPC victory.

“It was a statement, really,” said Perry, who rushed for 180 yards and three touchdowns as West (6-4, 3-1) completed a three-game sweep against county opponents. “Our start was explosive. We just jumped out and took control of the game.”

West produced touchdowns on its first three possessions, then used Jalen Houston’s 80-yard touchdown run on the final play of the first half to mount a 28-0 lead.

“Very proud of our kids to win the county championship for the fourth year in a row,” said West coach Joe Nixon. “That’s always one of our goals and for them to be able to mark that off the goal list, we’re very happy. It also sets us up to play for the conference championship.”

That could be decided a week from today when the Falcons close their conference season at co-leader Statesville. West has won two straight for the second time this year.

“If we just keep fighting and pushing ourselves hard, the league championship is possible,” safety Reggie Everhart said after intercepting two Carson passes. “Especially if we play like today, we can win it all.”

West finished with 395 yards total offense, including 316 on the ground. Perry surpassed the 1,000-yard mark and Houston — a rocket-booster in spikes known for his receiving exploits — contributed 114 yards rushing on just three attempts. But West’s defense was tested time and again by Carson (3-7, 1-3). The Cougars were more persistent than polished, collecting 22 first downs and 311 yards rushing.

“I think we went toe-to-toe with them in the second half and did lots of good things,” said offensive coordinator Josh Trexler, who filled in for under-the-weather head coach Joe Pinyan. “We held the ball forever, but then their offense comes back out and moves it for that last touchdown. Until then, there was a lot to like.”

Carson made the game interesting with a breakout fourth quarter, drawing within 28-15 with 4:43 remaining. With quarterback Justin Smith at the wheel, the Cougars drove 80 yards on 15 plays and scored their first touchdown when sophomore Michael Gonsalves (103 yards/18 carries) scored on a 1-yard blast off right tackle.

An onside-kick recovery by Jacob Taylor gave Carson more life. Seven plays later Gonsalves rolled into the end zone on a 9-yard sweep and added a two-point conversion.

“Michael’s a sophomore who plays like a senior,” said Trexler. “He’s a leader in practice, he studies the game and he comes out and barrels into the secondary.”

Ultimately, it wasn’t enough to overcome West’s quick start. Perry scored twice on short runs in the opening quarter, sandwiched around Houston’s 32-yard TD sweep around the left side. Both Nixon and Perry credited the West offensive line, a road-grading unit that perfected the interior seal-off, springing long runs around the edges.

“They made holes when they had to,” Perry said. “And sealed off the inside on sweeps. It’s just execution and speed. On film we saw that they couldn’t really cover it. It was one of their weaknesses.”

“We found formations that we liked, we had numbers and we took advantage of our spots,” Nixon added. “The offensive line controlled the line of scrimmage and our running backs got loose. When they get into the open, they’re tough to tackle.”

West’s defense, meanwhile, forced four turnovers and twice stalled Carson drives inside the 10-yard line. Prior to Houston’s 80-yard touchdown run, Everhart foiled a scoring chance with an interception in the end zone with 2.8 seconds remaining in the first half. Then the Cougars took the second-half kickoff, kept the ball on the ground for seven-and-a-half minutes and navigated to the West goal line — where Smith fumbled on a fourth-and-goal quarterback sneak and the Falcons’ Levontae Jacobs recovered.

“It looked to me like (Smith) extended the ball across the line before it got knocked out,” said Trexler. “They called it a fumble and West recovered, but I thought Gonsalves was in on the third-down play. That was even bigger. Then on fourth down, Justin extended across but got it knocked away low.”

West padded its lead in the waning moments. Following a turnover-on-downs, the Falcons capitalized on a short field and Perry scampered 25 yards for an insurance score.

“I’m good with this win,” Everhart said. “We played hard and kept our heads up when they started scoring. It was a good fight, but we won it.”

NOTES: Houston’s touchdowns were his 15th and 16th of the season. … Gonsalves scored 14 of Carson’s 15 points. He’s got eight TD’s. … West quarterback Payne Stolsworth completed five passes for 79 yards. Ty’kese Warren had three receptions for 57 yards. … Pinyan left school early, giving Trexler just a few hours to prepare. “Joe must have been really sick to miss this,” he said. … West recognized 17 seniors before the game. … Carson hosts South Iredell in its NPC finale next Friday.

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