Prep Football: Carson practice
This is the fifth of seven practice stories on area
By Ronnie Gallagher
CHINA GROVE — When C.J. Cain arrived at Carson, he was a 190-pound lineman, just another face on the Cougar roster.
Now, as a senior, the same face stands 6-foot-4, 297 pounds and is a college recruit.
What in the world happened?
“He wanted to be a good football player,” Carson coach Mark Woody said.
“I just busted my butt in the weight room,” Cain said.
Cain said he went from 190 as a freshman to 200 as a sophomore, 260 as a junior and showed up for Photo Day as a senior at 297.
“And he’s not fat,” Woody was quick to point out.
Most colleges think Cain will be an offensive lineman but this year, he has moved to defense. He and Myquon Stout will be side-by-side on the defensive line.
“During offseason workouts, Coach Woody said we were installing a new package and he needed somebody to be physical up front — someone who’s mean.”
There is a difference from the O-line.
“You have to be a lot smarter,” Cain said. “On defense, it’s wide open 100 percent. It will be fun.”
Cain performed well at the Shrine Bowl combine. East Carolina and Southern Conference teams are interested, as is Catawba.
“Right now, I’m really leaning toward Catawba,” Cain said. “I like Coach (Chip) Hester and what he’s doing over there. I can see myself playing there.”
BASEBALL BUNCH: Woody noticed early on that Legion baseball rules in Rowan County from May until August.
That’s not good for most coaches who have quarterbacks playing the Summer Game.
Like Austin McNeill. He didn’t get to do all of the summer work because he was with the Rowan Legion.
It’s OK, Woody says.
“One of the first things I had to learn was that baseball was very popular here,” he said. “Instead of fighting it, we say, ‘Go play baseball.’ ”
There were conflicts for McNeill with 7-on-7s but Woody brought the junior QB in during morning workouts.
“We just haven’t had a lot of competition outside ourselves,” he said.
McNeill will be fine. The confident junior threw for almost 1,239 yards.
RUN AND … WHAT? Woody is known for pounding the football with a running game. But when the run-and-shoot was mentioned, he said, “You laugh, but I think we can be that. I like our receivers.”
Of course, that includes returning all-county star K.J. Pressley, who should easily improve on his 39-catch, 757-yard season.
“Ben Gragg has had a really good summer too,” Woody pointed out.
Pressley, at 6-3, 180, is getting looks from SoCon schools and Presbyterian.
“He has good length and good hands,” Woody said.
DON’T FORGET GREG: And when McNeill isn’t slinging it downfield, he can dump it off to reliable a tight end in 6-3 Greg Tonnesen, who entered the program as a quarterback.
“We needed tight ends and he said, ‘I’ll do what you need,’ ” Woody said. “It worked out. He’s very unselfish.”
LINE KING: Defensive lineman Stout was last year’s Rowan County Athlete of the Year and he used his summer to prove he’ll ber a candidate to repeat.
Stout, a 6-1, 246-pound junior, was invited to a camp in Atlanta for the best linemen in the southeast.
Stout was named “Line King” out of 280 campers.
Even more impressive was his 4.9 time in the 40.
“He’ll be a 400-pound bench-press guy this fall,” Woody said. “We have to run him out of the weight room.”
GOING AND COMING: Woody lost two assistants and you really can’t blame them for leaving.
Andre Neely went back to his alma-mater at South and Ben Hampton joined his brother-in-law at North Rowan.
Woody still has mainstays Barry Mitchem and Travis Billings to go with Jason Stanley and Andre McCain. He’s added Josh Carter and Josh Trexler.
Carter has coached before. Trexler, an East Rowan grad, will oversee McNeill and the quarterbacks. He had been at Campbell University.
“He’s a young kid with a lot of energy,” Woody said of Trexler. “I like him a lot.”
WOUNDED KNEE: Woody cringes just thinking about it.
Devon Peacock planted his left foot to kick off against Statesville and the knee just buckled. The bone came off the kneecap. It was a gruesome sight.
“As I get older, I don’t like seeing kids get hurt,” Woody said.
Peacock says, no problem. He has fully recovered.
“After surgery,” Woody noted, “the bright side was, there was no ligament damage. He has dropped some weight and looks very good.”
AND FINALLY: Photo Day is over, thank goodness.
That’s usually a coach’s nightmare but Woody makes the best of it. He has Carson’s at night so the community can come out and meet the players, get autographs and take pictures.
“Picture Day is hectic anyway,” Woody said, “so we try to have some fun with it.”