Published: Sep 24, 2012 03:33 PM
Modified: Sep 24, 2012 03:35 PM
CARY - Both Cary and Middle Creek's football teams put together impressive drives at key times on Friday night.
But when the host Imps were less than a yard away from finishing it off, they fumbled.
And when Middle Creek needed a game-winning score, it got just that.
In a back-and-forth battle between two Tri-9 Conference foes, it was those two drives stood out among the rest in a 31-24 Middle Creek victory.
Salmon used his legs in the fourth quarter to help Middle Creek march 75 yards in a little more than three minutes. He capped off the go-ahead drive with a 3-yard rushing touchdown.
"They started keying in on our running backs," Salmon said. "I just took advantage of them over-pursing and caught them out of position one too many times."
Cary had the chance to do something similar in the first half, using less than two minutes to reach Middle Creek's one-foot line. But a fumble on the center-quarterback exchange on a 4th-and-goal with 28 seconds left before halftime was a large swing in the game's momentum.
"Anytime something like that happens, it's a boost to your team," Salmon said.
Cary's offense had only topped 21 points once this year, but put on a show against the athletic Mustangs' defense. On the other side, Middle Creek's renowned offense didn't disappoint.
Cary had 20 first downs and 387 yards of offense, while Middle Creek rolled up 23 first downs and 472 yards of total offense.
On the third play of the game, Salmon tossed a 58-yard touchdown pass to Quinton Ray, who made a one-handed bobbling grab over the middle, to take a 7-0 lead.
Cary (3-3, 2-2) was without quarterback Jordan Dawson and down 14-3 after the first quarter. The Imps' Phillip Thomas hit a 35-yard field goal on Cary's first drive and Middle Creek's Devone Johnson ran in a 10-yard touchdown just before the second quarter started.
When Dawson returned under center, he wasted little time in bringing Cary back.
The Imps' Marquise Sherrod-Ponds, who ran for 178 yards, scored from 40 yards out to cut the lead to 14-9. Cary took the lead on its next drive as a scrambling Dawson found Jamal Caesar for a 68-yard touchdown pass. The two-point conversion on faked extra point made it 17-14 in Cary's advantage.
Dawson was 6-of-12 passing for 131 yards and ran for 39 more.
Middle Creek's Naylaan Lopez put the Mustangs (5-1, 3-0) up 21-17 on a 5-yard run with 2:13 left in the half, but Cary had a chance to take a lead.
The Imps, who had one touchdown called back for holding, fumbled coming out of a timeout on what was an apparent quarterback sneak call..
In the third quarter, the Imps took a 24-21 lead on Sherrod-Ponds' second touchdown run of the night. Middle Creek evened it at 24-all on a 27-yard field goal by Chris Hui later that same quarter.
The teams held even until the game-winning drive. Salmon was 8-of-16 passing for 131 yards and 66 yards rushing.
Lopez had 115 rushing yards while Johnson had a team-high 166.