Friday Night Hero: Carson's Ben Gragg
By Ronnie Gallagher
CHINA GROVE - For all those defensive coordinators out there working to stop Carson's all-county receiver K.J. Pressley, they may want to rethink their gameplan.
Pressley has company in the form of senior receiver Ben Gragg.
Gragg was the main reason the Cougars were able to bounce back from an opening-night loss and win Friday. He caught three touchdown passes from Austin McNeill in a 28-13 victory over Northwest Cabarrus.
"He's electrifying," Carson coach Mark Woody said. "He can run, he can jump and he has good hands."
Gragg was barely in the conversation last year but he has burst onto the scene. The little brother of former all-county quarterback Zack already has scored four touchdowns in two games.
"He came on late last year and decided he wanted to get better," Woody said.
Gragg made such an impact Friday that his biggest play didn't come on a reception. It was a kickoff return.
Carson had just been stopped on the Trojan three and quickly gave up a 97-yard run for a touchdown.
"They had momentum instantly," Woody said.
Not for long, thanks to Gragg, who fielded the ensuing kickoff.
"Coach (Travis) Billings said he wanted to make a statement real quick," said Gragg, who took the kick 74 yards. The Trojan kicker tripped him up or Gragg would've scored.
"The kicker grabbed my ankle and I couldn't bring it back," he said.
No problem. Moments later, McNeill hit him with an eight-yard scoring toss on a slant.
Gragg scored again in the second period on a diving 17-yard grab in double coverage.
"It was kinda diving, kinda losing footing," Gragg said. "It was really wet in that corner. Austin made a really good throw right over the defender where he couldn't catch it."
Gragg gave Carson an insurmountable lead when he caught a 12-yard score in the fourth quarter.
"I had to go up and get that one over the defender," Gragg said.
It was quite a night for the senior who was glad to make up for a loss to North Rowan as the Cougars improved to 1-1.
"We really didn't finish," Gragg said of the North game. "We talked a lot in practice about finishing. The way we went in mentally against Northwest was a lot different. We were a lot more focused."
Gragg played defense his sophomore year before moving to receiver as a junior. It was a natural move, considering his brother's arm.
"Zack was a quarterback so I was always catching," he said. "It's what I felt comfortable doing."
So far this season, most fans are wondering where No. 17 came from.
"I've just been working hard and staying low," Gragg said. "I'm trying to stay humble. I'm not trying to boast."
He doesn't have to. Woody will brag on Gragg.
He also gives Carson a two-headed monster at receiver along with Pressley, who, like Gragg, had four receptions against Northwest
"K.J. is really good," Gragg said. "We work well together and we have a quarterback who has grown up a lot."
"Ben's enjoying it," Woody smiled, "and having two good (receivers) makes things interersting."
Especially for those defensive coordinators who have to figure out a way to stop them.