High school football: Near miss for Cougars was painful, but encouraging
Published 7:49 pm Saturday, August 27, 2022
CHINA GROVE — Carson’s new head coach Jonathan Lowe constantly preaches belief.
Even down 28-7, the Cougars still believed they were going to beat Mount Pleasant and the Cougars’ former head coach Daniel Crosby on Friday.
The Cougars couldn’t have come much closer than they did to pulling it out, but the Tigers escaped China Grove with a hair-raising and spine-tingling 34-28 victory.
“With three seconds left, we’re still believing it’s going to happen,” Lowe said. “So close. It would’ve been sweet to get this one for a lot of reasons, but I’ve got nothing but praise for the effort of our team and our fans.”
The last snap of the night came from the Mount Pleasant 28. Michael Guiton let it fly. CJ Guida went high to get it in the end zone, but it was just out of his reach.
Earlier in the fourth quarter, Carson receiver Trevor Vaughn had broken into the clear near the goal line with the game tied at 28-all, but Emory Taylor’s fling from across the field missed connecting with a diving Vaughn by inches.
It was that kind of night for Carson (0-2), but it still was a wildly entertaining game. Carson QBs Guiton and Taylor, who is a serious running threat, combined for 305 passing yards.
Crosby’s physical Tigers did what they do. They ran it and ran it, and when 11 Cougars started thinking run, they threw it. Mount Pleasant’s Lawson Little tossed only six passes, but three went for touchdowns. That’s the precise formula that Crosby expects from the split-back veer offense that he has taken with him from Carson to Mount Pleasant.
Mount Pleasant tight end Dylan Coln couldn’t have been any more wide open on his decisive TD grab with 30 seconds left on the clock.
Carson went into the game with the plan of pounding away out of the I-formation with rugged tailback Jay McGruder, but after some early success, Mount Pleasant (2-0) took that away.
That’s when Carson switched to an all-out aerial assault. The Cougars have athletic receivers and they figured out their best offense was throwing jump balls up for Jay Howard (9 catches, 182 yards) and Guida.
“You do what works, whatever that might be on a given night,” Lowe said. “We came in wanting to run it, but then our guys did a great job in the passing game,”
Mount Pleasant stopped Carson’s opening drive, and then scored easily in three plays. Little threw a touchdown pass to T.J. Blackwelder.
Keegan Moose, a swift MP back, ran by the Cougars for a 45-yard touchdown and a 14-0 lead on the initial play of the second quarter.
Carson needed something good to happen and it did. Guida looked well-defended, but a pass by Guiton got through a gambling defender, and Guida turned it into a 60-yard gain. From the 2-yard line, McGruder put the Cougars on the scoreboard, and the Tigers’ lead was 14-7.
Mount Pleasant wasn’t ruffled and produced another quick score, as Moose blew past defenders on a 67-yard romp for 21-7.
It got worse. When Little surprised the Cougars with a pass to Colton Scott for a 31-yard score, the visitors led 28-7.
It looked close to being over at that point, but Carson scored a momentum-changing TD shortly before the halftime break. Two jump balls to the soaring Howard did the trick. The second one was a 20-yard touchdown that got Carson to halftime down 28-14, and still in the hunt.
Mount Pleasant began the second half with a determined drive meant to put Carson away for good. Fourteen straight running plays chewed yards and clock, but Carson’s defense made a stand at its 30-yard line and finally got the ball back.
Carson immediately threw an interception on a flea flicker, and its weary defense trudged back on the field. They didn’t flinch. Again the Cougars stopped the Tigers.
Then Carson made it 28-21 on Taylor’s 14-yard scoring pass to Howard.
It was 28-all and the Cougars had all the momentum in the world after Taylor connected on a 25-yard pass to Guida and then found Vaughn for an 18-yard touchdown.
“They were doubling and triple-teaming Jay Howard by that point,” Lowe said. “But that opened things up for other guys.”
Everything was going Carson’s way. Then the Cougars created the break that could’ve won the game. Carson Aman and Cody Russell stormed through for a punt block, and Carson put its offense back on the field at the Mount Pleasant 27.
But a penalty was a setback, and Taylor’s pass to Vaughn on fourth down was a near miss.
The Tigers had been reeling for the entire fourth quarter, but Crosby rallied the troops. Mount Pleasant began smashing its way down the field in the final minutes against a tiring Carson defense. Starting at the MP 30, the visitors used 11 straight runs to travel to the Carson 15.
On third-and-2, the probability of another run had to be 95 percent, and the Tigers fooled the Cougars with a pass to the tight end. Little made the throw. Coln made the decisive catch for a 34-28 lead, ending a long scoring drought for MP.
There were only 30 seconds left on the clock, but Carson still made a good run at it. That last pass to Guida couldn’t have been thrown much better. It was close.
It was a gut-punch loss, but Lowe handled it in a positive manner.
“From Week 1 to Week 2, we got so much better,” he said. “We saw some exciting things from our guys tonight.”
A lot of heart and a lot of belief. Win No. 1 for Lowe can’t be far away.
Mount Pleasant 7 21 0 6 — 34
Carson 0 14 0 14 — 28
Mount Pleasant — 70 passing yards, 276 rushing yards
Rushing — McGruder 16-44, 1 TD, Taylor 7-36, Gay 2-16, Galarza 1-3, Guiton 3-minus 18
Passing — Guiton 11-13-0, 216 yards, 2 TDs, Taylor 6-12-1, 89 yards, 2 TDs
Receiving — Howard 9-182, 2 TDs, Guida 2-85, Vaughn 3-29, Samples 1-8, Taylor 2-1