Friday Night Hero: Carson’s Anthony McCurry
CHINA GROVE — In its 83-game football history, Carson had never won a game in which it scored so few points, but the Cougars managed to beat Salisbury 14-9 on Friday in coach Joe Pinyan’s return to Ludwig Stadium.
The most famous players at Carson have been offensive guys, notably receivers Cody Clanton and K.J. Pressley, passer Zack Gragg and rusher Shaun Warren, but it may be a new day in China Grove. The “man” this season is a defender — 250-pound Appalachian State commitment Myquon Stout — and what’s really crazy about Friday night is that Stout didn’t even play.
That’s right. Carson had its finest defensive hour with its best player not on the field.
There are a lot of theories about Friday’s game, but a lot of what happened can be traced to Carson linebacker Anthony McCurry, a wide-shouldered, 5-foot-10 junior.
McCurry was Carson’s primary tackler nine times, helped on six other tackles, hurried a pass and forced a fumble.
McCurry wrestles for the Cougars at 182 pounds, but he bulked up to 205 for football. That’s a lot of intensity and a lot of muscle.
“McCurry’s motor is running all the time,” Pinyan said. “I kind of hate for us to run the ball at him in practice. I’m afraid someone might get hurt.”
McCurry has spent weeks learning a new position and a new defense. The plan was for him to be the linebacker to the left of middle linebacker Stout most of the time.
“I was really looking forward to the first game,” McCurry said. “If Myquon’s got the middle, then teams aren’t going to run up the middle. I figured they’d be running right at me a lot.”
Everything changed Thursday when Stout fell on his shoulder in practice. Friday morning, physicians ruled Stout out for opening night.
Pinyan scratched his head. Then he told McCurry he would be in the middle.
“We missed Myquon, but it actually made things a lot simpler for me,” McCurry said. “I’ve been trying to learn a lot of new stuff, but middle linebacker isn’t new for me. That’s where I’ve been been my whole life.”
He played like it. Five times Salisbury had plays blown up in the backfield by McCurry.
“I guess coaching is over-rated,” Pinyan said with a laugh. “Here’s a kid we’ve been preparing in practice to play on the outside. We stick him in the middle with no practice time and just tell him to go play — and he has a great game.”
An early Carson mistake handed Salisbury a field goal, but keeping the Hornets out of the end zone was a turning point.
“We turned it over, and I started thinking maybe it was gonna be a long night,” McCurry said.
“But Myquon was over there cheering for us to go out there and stop them, and then we stopped them. They got three points, but that wasn’t so bad.”
Salisbury had short fields often, but Carson’s defense kept getting stops.
“We started stopping them fast,” McCurry said. “I think they had it inside the 20 five times and we stopped them all five. I messed up a few times, but when I did, my teammates picked me up. Then there were a few times I was able to pick up someone who messed up. Our defensive line was blasting holes, making it easy for us to find the ball. It was great team defense. I’ve watched Carson play since I was an eighth-grader at China Grove, so it was great to be part of something like that.”
When it was over, Salisbury had 89 yards of offense, 39 rushing and 50 passing. In terms of yards allowed, it was the third-best defensive effort in Carson history. Considering the opponent, it probably was the best.
“McCurry was huge,” Pinyan said. “When they had the ball with a short field, he made a lot of plays. He was Johnny-on-The-Spot all night.”