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Shaw column: Carson still seeking identity

SALISBURY — If Carson’s football team came to Ludwig Stadium seeking credit Friday night, consider its application denied.
The Cougars are the county’s hardest team to read this season — and last night’s 43-7 thumping only reinforced the fact.
“I don’t know. We practiced hard this week,” left guard Mitch Galloway said. “We weren’t expecting it to be like this. The only thing we can do now is watch more film and try to get better.”

Carson has earned the midseason Jekyll-and-Hyde award, a team that plays brilliantly one week and without a clue the next. Who are these guys? Inconsistency has been their most consistent trait.
Are the Cougars the team that recorded as-expected victories over North and East Rowan? Or the group that fell down the stairs and lost against Northwest Cabarrus and Robinson?
“You tell me,” coach Mark Woody said flatly.
Then came last night’s head-scratcher against Salisbury. Carson’s offense — a unit that averaged 265 yards per game through four weeks — was limited to 153 and seven first downs by the seek-and-destroy Hornets’ defense.
“To be honest, I thought this was a learning curve,” senior left tackle Daniel Rodriguez said. “We played our hearts out and did what we could. We just got beat by a better team.”
It’s one thing to take one on the chin, quite another in the mouth. Outside of the first quarter, Carson was no match for the defending 2AA state champs. Granted, the Cougars are in a semi-rebuilding phase, a 10-win squad in 2010 that’s a year away from another exciting postseason run. It’s roster lists 27 underclassmen, none more thrilling than 14-year old tailback Brandon Sloop.
“That guy,” Salisbury coach Joe Pinyan made it known, “is a hard-nosed back. When he’s a junior or a senior he’s gonna be a force in the county. He’ll be a lot like (Shawn) Warren, without Warren’s speed. He’s gonna bully his way for yards.”
Sloop bumped and bruised his way for 152 yards — inching within 19 of 500 for the season — and scored Carson’s lone touchdown on a first-quarter burst. If the freshman is guilty of anything it’s not being able to tell time.
“He should be on the jayvee team,” Woody acknowledged. “He’s arrived too soon.”

Other than Sloop’s steadfastness and not turning the ball over, there was little for Carson to applaud. It’s defense failed to adjust to Salisbury’s multi-pronged attack — and was victimized by quarterback Brian Bauk’s signature counter scramble on several occasions.
“They knew what they were doing on those runs,” said Carson’s stud linebacker T.J. Smith. “And they made them work.”
It worked with machine-like efficiency. Salisbury’s rushing total was north of 400 yards and Bauk zigged and zagged for 159 by himself. The only ones having a worse night than the Cougars were the folks at CiCi’s Pizza, who gave away six free pies — one for each Salisbury TD.
“(Bauk) is pretty good,” said Galloway, who also spent time at defensive nose. “Not only running the ball, but he can throw. And that’s just how Salisbury is. They’re going to come at you with all they have and you’ve got to be ready to hit back.”
There wasn’t much of that last night. Salisbury was clearly the better team, but 43-7 better?
“They were tonight,” Woody cracked.
Despite Carson’s oddly upbeat reaction to a lopsided loss, the Cougars know there is work to do.
“We can be an unbelievable team — if we actually set our minds to it,” Rodriguez said. “We don’t need to drop our heads and lose our motivation like we did tonight. We’re kind of off and on that way. That’s what has to change.”

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