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Seeking to rebound from last week's 20-17 overtime loss to Nation Ford, the York Comprehensive High School Cougars host tradition-rich Northwestern Friday night.
Kickoff time for the much-anticipated clash is 7:30 p.m. on the artificial turf at the YCHS stadium.
With the largest home crowd of the year expected for the marquee attraction, Cougar fans are encouraged to arrive early.
While the Cougars were experiencing a gut-wrenching setback to Nation Ford, the Trojans came alive in the second half to subdue Fort Mill 42-7.
“Northwestern is a great football team,” head coach Bobby Carroll said of Friday's opponent. “You can count on one hand the number of bad seasons they've had the last 30 years.”
Carroll said playing in big games is nothing new to the Trojans.
He makes a valid point, taking into consideration Northwestern's four-point loss to Byrnes, ranked No.3 in the nation by USA Today at the time. Then there was the emotional down-to-the-wire loss to in-city rival South Pointe.
“It'll be a big test for our team,” said Carroll. “Our kids are excited.”
Carroll said the atmosphere at a game like Northwestern at York is what high school football is all about.
“There's nothing like high school football,” declared the boisterous YCHS coach. “It's a sport that hasn't been tainted.
“For $10, you will be greatly entertained, with enough left over to take in the concession stand.”
The York-Nation Ford barnburner came down to an overtime period, which allows four plays from the 10-yard-line.
Unable to penetrate the end zone on three running plays, the Cougars called on sophomore placekicker Buddy Anderson, who booted at 17-yard field goal for the lead.
The Cougars appeared to be in the driver's seat until Daniel Jackson scored the winning touchdown on a nine-yard run, sending Nation Ford fans into a frenzy.
Much of the first half was a defensive standoff as the teams traded punts and missed scoring opportunities.
With the scoreboard clock winding down in the first half, Cougar quarterback Spencer Carroll completed a 63-yard scoring toss to Tay Neely. The senior wide receiver snared the pigskin in the middle of the field and raced down the sideline to pay dirt with 1:36 left in the half.
The Falcons knotted the score at 7-all on a 39-yard TD pass from quarterback Dalton Helms to AK McCoy midway through the third quarter.
On the initial drive of the fourth quarter, Nation Ford's DeMarcus Thompson intercepted a batted Carroll pass and scooted 75 yards for the go-ahead touchdown.
The Cougars marched down the field and were in scoring position at the Nation Ford 17, but Carroll was picked off in the end zone, giving the ball back to the Falcons.
With 3:49 left in the game, Carroll engineered a 74-yard drive, culminating with a 13-yard scoring toss to Markel Castle with 59.3 ticks left on the clock.
Anderson booted the all-important point after and the teams were looking at overtime.
“I didn't have them ready to play, bemoaned head coach Bobby Carroll in a postgame interview. “I'll take the blame for that.
“We had turnovers, penalties, a pick 6 and two touchdowns called back.”
Carroll credited Nation Ford.
“They came after us and won the game,” observed the Cougar coach. “Destiny wasn't with us.
“Football can be a humbling game.”
Mindful that preseason goals are still on the table, Carroll said the Cougars still have a lot to play for.
“We'll get back to work at practice and be ready to play,” he said.
Senior stalwart Beau Nunn admitted there's still a lot to play for.
“Tonight was a tough loss, Nunn said after the game. “We fought from behind in regulation and lost in overtime.
“I'm not saying the loss was good for us but it may have been a wake up call.”
Nunn said all is not lost.
“The goals we had when the season began ar still there,” he said. “We'll get after it at practice next week and get back to where we need to be.”
Junior running back Ryan Moore had a monster night, rushing for 163 yards on 27 carries, with a 5.8 average per run.
Carroll passed for 310 yards and two touchdowns.
Nation Ford quarterback Helms, who had six interceptions in the previous game, had a solid performance against the Cougars' stout defense.
Wide receiver Neely was Nation Ford's worst nightmare, hauling in five passes for 114 yards.