Friday Night Hero: Carson's Brandon Sloop
By Ryan Bisesi
CHINA GROVE - There were no Saturday morning cartoons for Brandon Sloop.
It was no pain, no gain for the sophomore who carried it 37 times and who nursed his bumps and bruises from a hard hat-evening in China Grove.
Fortunately, there was a lot of gain, 245 yards of it in a career game for the hardest-working sophomore in the North Piedmont Conference.
"I'm not the fastest guy in the county but I try to run the hardest," said Sloop before the team broke for practice Tuesday. "I was pretty sore Saturday morning."
For the first time in a month Carson gained a win. Carrying the burden of a five-game losing streak was toilsome, but that's in the past for a Carson team coming off a big win against South Rowan and has a winnable game at West Iredell on Friday. The 37 handoffs weren't unusual for Sloop, who's gotten 179 carries this year, a county best. Eleven of Carson's first 12 plays were carries by Sloop and he scored his first two touchdowns of the year. The Cougars have relied heavily on QB Austin McNeill as well, but refocused the offense around Sloop coming into the South game.
"We've got to be that physical team," Carson coach Mark Woody said. "He's tough enough and it didn't phase him one bit. He came up big at the right times."
It has been rough going for the 2-6 Cougars during the first eight games, but Sloop and his running have been an unquestioned bright spot. Sloop's sitting at 820 yards for the season.
A one-score game became Carson's to lose after Sloop took a handoff up the middle and went 79 yards for his second touchdown of the night and a 31-19 lead.
"We saw the linebackers flowing so we countered it," Sloop said. "We countered it so the hole opened up and I hit it as hard as I could."
Sloop came in his freshman year after Shaun Warren departed for Western Caroina and got noticed. He amassed five 100-yard games, the best of which was a 170-yard night against East Rowan. Sloop ran for 118 yards in the season finale against North Iredell. A win made the Cougars eligible for the playoffs with a 4-7 record, but they were not selected for postseason play.
This year, Carson needs to win two of its last three to have a shot to make the playoffs. After West Iredell, West Rowan looms before Senior Night against North Iredell.
"I told them we feel like we can win out and that's what they believe," Woody said.
Not only did Sloop enjoy his career night, he probably also liked seeing McNeill throw and run for a touchdown, and K.J. Pressley continue his solid year with three catches for 78 yards. McNeill leads the county in passing with 1,312 yards. Sloop credited the defense and said the unit was crucial to the victory.
"Watching film, I think the most excitement I see from him is when other kids carry it," Woody said. "He's very coachable. He believes in what we're doing and it couldn't happen to a better kid."
From the outset, South Rowan got all they wanted of the 5-foot-10, 185-pound sophomore. Carson's first drive lasted eight plays, seven of which were handoffs to Sloop.
He entered the end zone for the first time this season on a 6-yard scamper on third and goal. The offensive line paved the way all game for Sloop, who'll have to be a factor in the remaining three games if the Cougars want to extend their season.
"Our line is really good this year so I was expecting big things," Sloop said. "But nothing like Friday night. This gives us a lot of momentum going into Friday's game."