CARY — Cary senior linebacker Matt Rush is proud of what the Imps have accomplished during his first three years, reaching the playoffs every time.
Still, coming into Friday’s game against visiting Panther Creek, Cary was below .500 both overall and in the Tri-9 Conference. This was unacceptable to Rush and his defensive teammates, whose core has been starting together since the 2010 season.
Rush posted nine tackles and added three sacks to help lead Cary to a 29-17 victory over the Catamounts, stopping a three-game slide and evening their record at 3-3 in the conference and 4-4 overall.
The Imps will most likely need to win at least once in their final two games to qualify for the postseason, but as far as Rush is concerned, the playoffs have already started.
“Since the Lee County game we’ve looked at this as a new season, and the playoffs are now,” said Rush, who stands 6-foot-1 and is interested in attending West Point Academy next year. “It doesn’t always have to look pretty as long as we get the win and play relentless defense.”
Cary linebacker Anthony Konieczka added six tackles, keeping speedy Panther Creek running back/wildcat QB Dorrel McClain (104 rushing yards) in check, while Paul Taylor recorded a clutch interception just before halftime to keep the Imps ahead 10-7 at intermission.
Cary’s offense also responded, as senior quarterback Jordan Dawson threw two touchdowns and ran for another, while Jamal Caesar caught seven passes for 109 yards and a score. Marquise Sherrod-Ponds carried the ball 21 times for 113 yards and an 18-yard touchdown.
“We had three tough losses in a row, close games, but we really needed that bye week to get healthy,” said Cary head coach Ben Kolstad, whose team lost by one and three points respectively to conference leaders Middle Creek and Lee County. “We’re still a work in progress, but we’re going to play everybody hard.”
Cary never trailed. Dawson scored on a 37-yard run midway through the first period, but the Catamounts (1-8 overall, 1-6 Tri-9) tied the contest early in the second when Juwan Byrd recovered a fumble deep in Cary territory and then David Mayaka plunged in from two yards out.
Phillip Thomas connected on a 25-yard field goal 1:44 before halftime, and following intermission Caesar scored on an 18-yard strike from Dawson to put Cary up 16-7.
Following a Phillip Stone35-yard field goal, Sherrod-Ponds rumbled for a score to put the Imps ahead 22-10. The resilient Catamounts responded with a McClain two-yard touchdown to cut the Cary advantage to 22-17 with 7:22 left.
Panther Creek could get no closer. Trevion Hackney caught a perfectly-thrown 38-yard touchdown pass from Dawson to seal the Imp win.