North Rowan offense finally explodes, routs Carson

Published 12:56 am Saturday, September 14, 2019

By David Shaw

sports@salisburypost.com

SPENCER — There was nothing wrong with Malcolm Wilson that a few gaping holes couldn’t fix.

The North Rowan running back — a racehorse whose gate wouldn’t open for three weeks — busted out for 216 yards and three touchdowns in Friday’s 45-10 rout of visiting Carson.

“I talked to him after practice a couple times this week,” coach Ben Hampton said, moments after the suddenly healthy Cavs won their first game. “I said, ‘Look, man. I need the old (No.) 22 back. I need you getting low, making one move and heading north.’ That was our challenge to him and he did it.”

The Wilson who walked off the field looked nothing like the one who had floundered in three season-opening losses. He carried 26 times, averaged 8.3 yards-per-attempt and scored on TD runs of 20 and 11 yards. He also snared a 23-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Kyree Sims, late in the opening half.

“I always try to humble myself and stay patient out there,” Wilson said afterward. “This win, this performance was for the team. We opened up a variety of stuff that gave us the confidence we needed. The line was great, once I slowed myself down. In the beginning I was beating them to the line of scrimmage. When I slowed it down, the holes were there.”

Both Wilson and Hampton sent glowing tributes to North senior Kendall Reid, the 310-pound center who made his first start of the season. Behind him and the cohesive North offensive line, the Cavs piled up 329 total yards.

“We do everything as one,” Reid said. “But Malcolm was amazing. Playing at home, under the lights, he put on a show. He’s someone we can rely on to get points when we need them.”

Carson (1-3) was certainly befuddled. First-year coach Daniel Crosby expected a scratch-and-claw confrontation, not a lopsided misadventure.

“Those guys, they were 0-3 coming in, but we knew their record wasn’t indicative of how good we knew they were,” he said. “Especially on defense. And their speed on offense — on third and fourth downs — just killed us.”

North’s defense intercepted four misguided passes thrown by sophomore Hunter Burris — a jayvee call-up who spelled concussed starter Alex London at quarterback. Included was free safety Jaharion Graham’s 32-yard pick-six that produced the Cavs’ final points with 3:35 remaining.

“It was so unexpected,” said Graham, who returned the pick down the left side. “The outside receiver ran a hitch play, so I was looking for a run. When it got to my hands, I was surprised. All I had to do was run it in.”

Carson completed only two passes for 13 yards, the last a 5-yard touchdown lob to Jacob Harris in the game’s waning seconds. The Cougars managed just eight first downs, three in the second half. Running back Alex Stirewalt bruised his way for 96 yards and Hunter Courtney added 64. And while Burris (2-for-12) looked overmatched, Crosby found reason to praise him.

“I told Hunter I was super-proud of him tonight,” he said. “He made a few mistakes, but other than that, he did what he had to do to give us a chance. I thought early in the game we had a chance. It just got away from us.”

North held a 6-3 lead entering the decisive second quarter. Wilson stretched for the left-corner pylon for a TD just 35 seconds into the period. Two drives later, Sims scampered around the right side for a 12-yard gain on a fourth-and-9 call. That drive stalled, but North closed the opening half when Wilson turned a screen pass into a 23-yard, bumper-car touchdown play and a 22-3 halftime lead.

“There were guys on me, but I just kept fighting and moving my legs,” Wilson recalled. “One guy got hold of me, but he was either going to take me down or we were going to the end zone.”

North added two touchdowns and a safety in the third quarter, stretching its lead to 39-3. Sims completed only five passes, but three went for TDs, including a pair to junior wideout James Gladden. “Now that we have all the pieces in place,” Sims noted, “no one can stop us — as long as we execute.”

When it ended, Carson retreated to lick its wounds while North celebrated for the first time. And Wilson — an 1,800-yard rusher in 2018 — wore a smile that wouldn’t quit.

“He had amazing numbers last year,” said Reid. “But that’s just it. You can’t go off last year. Tonight, we all put our minds to it, worked hard and got what we wanted.”

NOTES: Sims was 5-for-17 with an interception after missing last week’s loss at Lexington. He had two wisdom teeth removed. … Reid had been sidelined with a medical issue. … Wilson also ran for a two-point conversion, finishing the night with 20 points. … Senior Mikhail Gomez had an interception for Carson. Jordan Goodine, Jyrik Scott, Tsion Delaney and Graham had picks for North. … Both teams travel for non-league games next Friday. The Cougars visit North Stanly and North plays at East Rowan.

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