Big plays lift Sand Rock past Gaston

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By Shannon Fagan/Cherokee County Herald
Sand Rock junior receiver Carson Carver finished with five catches for 91 yards, including the go-ahead 62-yard touchdown with 9:57 to go in the third quarter, to help the Wildcats earn a 23-7 victory over Class 2A, Region 7 rival Gaston on Friday at Sand Rock.
The victory pushed Sand Rock’s record to 23-3-1 overall, but more importantly, 3-0 in region play. The Bulldogs dropped to 2-3, 2-1.
Carver later made a key 15-yard catch on a fourth-and-12 to keep a Wildcat drive going with 7:02 left in the game. One play later, his older brother Braden Carver scored on a 17-yard run to put the game out of reach.
Jansen Alexander finished the game completing 16-of-27 pass attempts for 193 yards and two touchdowns.
Braden Carver who finished with 104 yards on 15 carries and a touchdown.
Things got off to a rocky start for the Wildcat offense. They couldn’t cash in Carson Carver’s interception on the Bulldogs’ opening drive of the game. After a punt, Gaston got on the board with a methodical 16-play, 89-yard drive, capped by D.J. Pope’s 2-yard touchdown run. Kevin Hollingsworth’s extra point gave Gaston a 7-0 lead eight seconds into the second quarter.
Both teams traded punts, and the Bulldogs found themselves down at their own 1-yard line with seven minutes to go before halftime. Hollingsworth was sacked by Charley Cleaver in the end zone for a safety, making the score 7-2.
Gaston head coach Swane Morris said the safety was a huge play in the game.
“It was such a momentum shift in everything. It had us chasing a ghost of having to worry about that two points the whole time. When they scored and went up 9-7, it was a problem.”
The Wildcats began to distance themselves on first drive of the second half with Carson Carver’s 62-yard score, which put Sand Rock in front for the first time at 9-7.
Alexander’s 35-yard touchdown pass to Josh Sarratt just nine seconds into the fourth quarter and Sarratt’s extra point gave the Wildcats a two-score lead at 16-7.
After another Gaston punt, Sand Rock put together its final scoring drive of the night, which was capped with the Carver brothers’ big plays.
“I was worried about the size differential,” Morris said. “I felt like they had us outsized, and it just wore on us as the game went on. Our idea was to keep their offense off the field, and we ran the ball effectively, but (Sand Rock) did a good job. They kept everybody in front where we couldn’t have a big hitter. I knew that would be the way they would play us. We’ve been playing Coach (Jeff) Norris’ defenses for years. I knew what I was getting, and he knew what he was getting. It was just one of those things where they did a good job tonight.”
D.J. Pope led the Bulldogs with 38 yards on 13 carries  with a touchdown. J.D. Pope added 32 yards on 13 carries and Hollingsworth had 31 yards on nine carries.
The Bulldogs travel to Ranburne this week for more region action.

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