By ROB LUDWIG / Special To The Corsicana Sun —
Carson Earp sat in the small visiting locker room at Northeastern Oklahoma a few weeks ago and he saw something that he thought had been missing in Navarro’s season.
“I looked around the room and I had a sense we were ready to play,” he said. “I had a sense that we were coming together as a team.
“We had success earlier in the season, but I felt like now we were a real team, ready to go and ready to win.”
Win the Bulldogs did that day, smashing the Golden Norsemen 65-30 as Earp completed 17 of 26 passes for 264 yards and two touchdowns.
Earp and the Bulldogs are on a four-game winning streak, the same time the Robinson sophomore took over the quarterback position full-time.
While splitting time with transfer Bivins Caraway the first five games, Earp completed only 54.5 percent of his passes for 556 yards and four touchdowns. After a disastrous game against Southeast Prep when he was benched in the first half after throwing two interceptions, Earp was named the full-time starter.
In his last four games, Earp has passed for 1,149 yards and 12 touchdowns while completing 67.6 percent of his attempts. More importantly, Earp averaged only 5.5 yards per attempt in the first five games, compared to 10.4 in the last four.
“The way I looked at (splitting time) is that I can control only what I can control,” he said. “I stayed on the field as long as I could and made the best of my time out there. I couldn’t control when I was going to come out, but I could control what I was doing when I was on the field.”
Earp has certainly taken control in the last four weeks, leading the Bulldogs to commanding victories, all of which were must-win situations to gain the playoffs. He enjoys a talented group of receivers, led by the strong JaBryce Taylor, the swift Josh Simmons and the always-dangerous Austin Collins, who has 10 TD receptions this season.
“I feel more comfortable with these guys,” he said. “When (current Texas Tech receiver Devin) Lauderdale was out of the game, there was a dropoff last year. The guys we have this year might not be as talented as Lauderdale, but every one of them has different things about them that makes them special. JaBryce can go up in traffic and get any ball, Josh is really fast and Austin is the playmaker.”
Earp has been his own playmaker this season, not just with his arm, but with his feet. Earp is the second-leading rusher for the Bulldogs, averaging 6.9 yards while gaining 427 yards and scoring six touchdowns. In Navarro’s playoff-clinching win against Blinn, he rushed for 104 yards and two touchdowns on only 10 carries.
“I’ve been running the zone read for a long time, but for some reason I’ve always seemed to surprise people with my ability to run,” he said. “When you’ve got 22 (Ke’Aun Kinner) in the backfield, I guys it might be a surprise, but I know I have the ability to run and it adds to the offense.
“Last year, I had to run better because I wasn’t throwing the ball like I wanted to. Now we’re balanced and I can surprise the defense because their focus is on Ke’Aun.”
Earp benefits from growing up in a football family. His father was a longtime coach and worked closely in developing Earp from a young age.
“When I was in the seventh grade, my dad gave me a chart with (defensive) coverages. The first thing I learned was the smash route. He taught me what to do when I saw different coverages. I’ve been learning this for a long time.
“But now he’s my biggest supporter. He’s strictly a dad and I think he likes it that way.”
And he couldn’t be more proud of how his son has performed during the Bulldogs run to the playoffs.