A.L. Brown’s Carson a handful
By Bret Strelow
KANNAPOLIS ó The sight of an undersized nose guard on film doesn’t cause A.L. Brown’s offensive linemen to breath a collective sigh of relief.
They know better after practicing against senior Justin Carson.
“They always want to know if the guy we’re watching is like Justin and as quick as Justin,” assistant coach Todd Hagler said.
Carson, listed at 5-foot-10, 210 pounds, has emerged as an important player on the Wonders’ defense.
His performance in a state semifinal win against Kings Mountain helped A.L. Brown (13-2) advance to Saturday’s 3AA title game against Greensboro Dudley (15-0).
“He’s a guy you can sometimes knock back two steps and he’ll make the play still for a 1-yard loss,” said Hagler, who works with the offensive linemen. “They’ll say a lot of times they’d rather block a big guy than somebody like him.
“He’s strong and he’s fast, but he’s a smaller target. You’ve got a great big guy, you’ve got a lot of surface area to strike. When you have a smaller area, you don’t have a lot of surface area. When he’s fast like Justin, it just makes it that much harder.”
Carson, who often faces double-teams, had to contend with a 290-pound right guard and 225-pound center against Kings Mountain.
Carson sacked mobile quarterback Michael Roberts for a 20-yard loss in the second quarter as the Wonders held Roberts and running back Joe Chambers to a combined 53 rushing yards on 39 carries.
“First time being to the state game and knowing I’ve been able to help us get there, it’s been a good time,” Carson said. “After every game, we start preparing for the next week. We don’t talk about the same game over and over. We’re able to move on and keep on keeping our head straight.”
Carson attempted to play linebacker as an A.L. Brown freshman and moved to the defensive line a year later.
As a nose guard, he rarely generates eye-opening statistics. His job is to occupy blockers and create gaps for Brown’s linebackers to fill.
“I tell him all the time he’s going to give his body up for the team because he’s going to get double-teamed every single play,” defensive line coach Shon Galloway said. “He doesn’t mind. He attacks the center like you’re supposed to. The guard comes, he throws his hip, falls down, creates a pile and enables a linebacker to come make a tackle. He’s the total team player.”
Dwayne Stroud has piled up impressive sack numbers as a standout end among a group that includes Dana Moss, Mark Goodjohn and Bobby Archie. Carson plays alongside fellow defensive tackle Aaron Davidson.
Carson, who has received the team’s “Ultimate Barbarian” strength award, can lift nearly as much weight as the 6-4, 290-pound Davidson.
“If you watch him work, there isn’t a day he takes off in the weight room,” Galloway said. “If you turn your back on him, he’s going to do what he’s supposed to do. He’s going to go above and beyond, and you have to tell him most of the time to go light on days when it’s not supposed to be heavy.”
A.L. Brown head coach Ron Massey has taken note of the effort Carson exhibits on each snap and called him a “great surprise” for the team.
The impact of the interior battles isn’t always obvious, but Carson occasionally slips into the backfield to make a stop behind the line of scrimmage like he did against Kings Mountain.
“I just try to stay down low,” Carson said, “and go as hard as I can.”