Nasir Carson has grown accustomed to having a football in his hands.
Thursday night, however, the junior offensive lineman for Cheltenham High toted the pigskin in unfamiliar territory.
Carson, who also earned a starting spot on the Panthers defensive line this season, returned a fumble for a first-quarter touchdown against host Frankford that helped the Panthers seize control en route to a 34-17 victory at Northeast High.
When his teammate, Joe Thomas, sacked Frankford quarterback Jeremiah Morell, Carson saw the ball pop free.
“Thank God I picked it up,” Carson said. “I picked it up, held it tight, and saw a guy coming.”
“I said, ‘Lord Jesus, I just want to score!’ ”
The 6-foot, 285-pounder was mobbed by teammates after his first high school touchdown gave the Panthers a 13-0 lead.
Senior quarterback Adonis Hunter finished with 159 passing yards. He also added four touchdowns for the Panthers.
Nate Edwards and Lateef Harris, Hunter’s two dynamic senior receivers, caught two touchdown passes apiece.
Harris’ longest reception was for 69 yards. He added another from 6 yards out. Edwards’ scores came from 23 and 12 yards out.
Carson and the Panthers defense handled the rest, finishing with four sacks and forcing four turnovers.
When he was a freshman, though, Carson had a habit of turning the ball over at center.
“He started the first game as a ninth grader two years ago,” said Cheltenham coach Ryan Nase. “He was thrown into the fire early. He struggled to regain his confidence and now he’s the leader of the offensive line. And now he’s getting a turn on defense.
Frankford was led by Kaseem Perry, who finished with five catches, 180 yards and a score. The Pioneers, though, could not overcome 10 penalties and momentum-sapping turnovers.
Cheltenham 13 7 7 7 - 34
Frankford 7 3 0 7 - 17
C: Nate Edwards 23 pass from Adonis Hunter. Kick blocked.
C: Nasir Carson 30 yard fumble return. Lou Liedtka kick.
F: Kaseem Perry 75 yard pass from Jeremiah Morell. Abdullah Kamagate kick.
F: Kamagate field goal 30 yards.
C: Lateef Harris 69 pass from Hunter. Liedtka kick.
C: Edwards 12 pass from Hunter. Liedtka kick.
C: Harris 5 pass from Hunter. Liedtka kick.
F: Christian St. George 3 run. Kamagate kick.