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Prep Football: Carson 31, South Rowan 25

By Ryan Bisesi
rbisesi@salisburypost.com
CHINA GROVE – You could say Brandon Sloop might have been running
downhill Friday night. If he was going down Mount Everest.
An orange avalanche was unleashed upon South Rowan in a 31-25 Carson
victory that’s the summit of the Cougars’ season thus far. Sloop ran for
245 yards and Carson won its third straight against its rival from
across U.S. Highway 29.
The Cougars, who feature the county’s top passing game statistically,
went back to the ground to snap a five-game skid. Eleven of their first
12 plays were handoffs to Sloop. Don’t call it an identity crisis,
Carson coach Mark Woody simply says his team’s found itself again.
“I ought to have my rear end kicked,” Woody confessed. “We weren’t
giving him the ball enough. We went back to what we do. Carson
football’s about running the ball hard.”
Sloop’s performance brought Cougar fans back to the days of Shaun
Warren, especially on a 79-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter that
helped make it 31-19. It was Sloop’s 30th carry of the night on his way
to 37.
“We threw a lot last week and this week we thought we’d run the ball,”
said Sloop, a sophomore. “It worked out. The offensive line did a hell
of a job. They did everything I could ask for.”
Sloop scored on a 6-yard TD run on the Cougars’ first drive, and the BJ
Collins extra point ensured Carson (2-6. 1-2) wouldn’t trail.
Quarterback Austin McNeill was making plays himself, connecting with
K.J. Pressley on a 32-yard strike on fourth-and-21 for a TD that put the
Cougars up 14-6. South’s Antonio Hester scored on an 8-yard spurt to
make it 14-12 in the second quarter. After back-to-back scoreless
possessions, Carson got the ball at the South 41 after a fake punt went
bad for South (2-6, 2-2). McNeill hit Pressley for a 34-yard completion
and Sloop carried it 16 yards down to the 1. McNeill punched it in a
play later and Carson led 21-12 at the break. Sloop had 19 carries and
97 yards at halftime.
“I was just going to play the game,” Sloop said. However many carries I
got, I just kept playing hard.”
Carson’s lead grew to 24-12 on a 28-yard field goal from Collins.
The Cougars were on the verge of breaking it open with the ball inside
the 10 late in the fourth quarter. Bryson Deaton intercepted McNeill in
the end zone to give South new life.
South sophomore quarterback Aaron Kennerly took another step forward in
his second start. Kennerly passed for 182 yards and two touchdowns in an
interception-free outing.
Kennerly found Tvadis Wesley in single coverage over the middle for a
63-yard touchdown with 5:06 left in the game to pull South within a
touchdown.
“He’s been through enough pressure that he’s very confident,” South
coach Jason Rollins said. “He made some good passes tonight and kept us
in the game.”
After South scored, Carson converted a pair of key third downs. McNeill
found Pressley on third-and-10 at midfield on a simultaneous possession
with a South defensive back. Four plays later, Darren Isom went 8 yards
on third-and-6 and the ball went to the SR 22 after a face mask penalty.
Sloop made his only mistake of the night on a fumble that South
recovered at its own 4 with under a minute to play. However, the
Cougars held Kennerly and South to four straight incompletions to seal
the win.
“We gave the offense a chance to get back on the field,” Rollins said.
“That’s all you can ask.”
Pressley caught three passes for 78 yards to lead Carson. Wesley led the
Raiders with 95 yards receiving on four catches.
“Our kids are starting to grow up and I’m excited about it,” Woody said.
“We had a good game plan and the kids executed.”

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