Friday Night Hero: A.L. Brown’s Christian Carter
KANNAPOLIS — A.L. Brown coaches and players watched film of Weddington’s over-by-halftime destruction of Forest Hills and knew they had plenty to be concerned about.
Weddington was going to come at the Wonders with a sophisticated passing attack, with four or even five receivers stretching the Wonders’ defense to the limit, and a terrific quarterback in Jeff Welch making the reads and decisions on where his passes needed to go.
“You can’t cover good receivers forever,” A.L. Brown coach Mike Newsome said. “Slowing down Weddington depended on getting a pass rush.”
Entering Friday’s game at Memorial Stadium, a clash between perennial winners, not even the most optimistic Wonder was thinking about a sack-filled shutout.
But that’s what happened in a 7-0 victory that was the lowest-scoring A.L. Brown game since the 5-0 win in the mud at Concord in 1995.
“We definitely weren’t expecting sacks,” A.L. Brown defensive end Christian Carter explained. “On film, we could see their quarterback was getting the ball out quick, usually in three seconds, but we were determined to see what we could do.”
Carter is a typical Wonder. He arrived on campus at 160 pounds. The weight room — a place where strength coach Todd Hagler builds men out of boys — transformed Carter.
“I went from cleaning 160 pounds to cleaning 280,” Carter said.
Carter is still a long way from bulky, but his 6-foot-1 frame now carries about 200 solid pounds. Basically, he looks like a lean, mean linebacker, although the Wonders, who prefer quick to big, play him at defensive end.
“Christian is a testament to the weight room,” Newsome said. “He’s not as big as you’d like your defensive ends to be, but he is so strong and so explosive.”
Carter agreed with that assessment.
“It’s not like I’m 6-5 and it’s not like I’m 270 pounds,” he said. “But I use my speed, I use my technique, and I use my discipline. Physically, a lot of us are going to be outweighed a lot of the time, but we’re usually more aggressive than our opponent and we’re usually stronger.”
Carter is a senior, so he’s well aware of the team’s defensive struggles a year ago. Brown allowed a very un-Wonderish 27.6 points a game.
“All the components were there for us to be a very good defense,” Carter said. “It just didn’t come together.”
Maybe this year it is coming together.
“I think it is,” said coach Jeremy Ryan, who has been a Wonder assistant since the Bruce Hardin days. “Our defensive kids this year don’t look any different than they did last year, and they’re not any more athletic, but they’re playing together. They’re getting some confidence. They’re getting some swagger back.”
There was a third-quarter play against Weddington that changed Carter’s mindset from surviving to attacking.
“The quarterback didn’t see anyone open, so he tucked the ball and started to run,” Carter said. “I got to him, and I realized maybe we could get some sacks.”
They would get a ton of them. Tackle Jamel Logan alone had three. Carter had two. Logan and Carter shared yet another sack for an 11-yard loss.
The only points of the game were scored when middle linebacker Kyrell Williamson stripped a ball from a Warrior, and DB Kenon Jones recovered in the end zone.
“I coached a Butler team that had a shutout (44-0 in 2010 against Wake Forest-Rolesville) in a state-championship game,” Newsome said. “A shutout in a state-championship game is really good, but Friday’s performance was as fine as any I’ve been associated with. Our defense not only shut Weddington out, the defense scored the points. Defense won the game.”
As a captain, the goose-egg performance against a quality opponent put a smile on Carter’s face. He’s confident there’s more to come.
“We’ve got a small senior class, and a lot of people were worried about us moving up to 4A to play people like Mallard Creek, Vance and Hough,” Carter said. “But we’re the same Kannapolis. We’re still a team to be respected.”