Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 26, 2013

CHINA GROVE — Carson junior Brandon Sloop doesn’t keep track of his rushing yards, although he’s aware he has a bunch.
“I’ve always cared about winning games, not about having stats,” Sloop said with a shrug. “I try not to think about stats, really. When it’s all done, then I’ll look back and see what I did.”
Sloop’s athletic goal is a modest one for someone with his long list of accomplishments — a college scholarship in either football, wrestling or baseball.
He loves all three sports equally. A 5-foot-10 guy with NFL biceps, Sloop wrestles at 160 and plays football at 190. Carson fans will get to see him as a power-hitting varsity baseball outfielder for the first time this spring, and you can bet the ranch that he’ll be pretty good.
He’s already proven he’s a special football player. That was apparent from the second game of Sloop’s freshman season when he pounded Northwest Cabarrus for 130 yards on 27 carries.
The 13th 100-yard game of Sloop’s career and his second this season came in Friday’s 32-28 win at East Rowan.
While Sloop doesn’t count his yards, the Post does, and his career rushing yardage number is now 2,761. That’s strong, especially when you consider that he’s still got 20 or more games in front of him.
The names that Sloop has passed on the county’s all-time rushing list this fall are revered backs: North’s Jimmy Heggins on opening night; East’s Randy Fowler in Week 2; Salisbury’s Leonard Atkins in Carson’s third game, and North’s Nathaniel Hyde, East’s Cal Hayes Jr., South’s Michael Ramseur and Salisbury’s Dominique Dismuke last Friday.
There have been only a dozen 3,000-yard rushers in Rowan County history. Assuming continued good health, Carson’s runaway train will soon make it 13.
West’s K.P. Parks pushed the county record to an extraterrestrial level (10,915 yards), and Carson’s Shaun Warren (6,136 yards) put up a school mark that may last 50 years. Sloop, conceivably, could catch everyone else who’s ever carried the ball in the county.
“I remember watching John Riggins run the ball for the Washington Redskins in the 1980s,” Pinyan said. “I didn’t like the Redskins, and Riggins just frustrated the heck out of me because you’d think he was stopped, but the pile would keep moving forward. That’s how Sloop is. You think he’s stopped, but then he wiggles for a few more. The first thing he gives you is his pads, and his center of gravity is low. That makes him a real load to pull down.”
Sloop probably could be a standout linebacker, but they put him at running back at China Grove Middle School, and he’s been happy to stay there.
He is part fullback, part halfback. He has the power of a prototype fullback, but with more speed than the standard fullback brings to the table. He’s not a blazer, but he has a surprisingly quick burst.
“He made a cutback run against Central Cabarrus that was really nice, and he had a touchdown run against East that was pretty darn shifty,” Pinyan said. “He runs with his head up, so he sees the holes and the cutbacks.”
Sloop doesn’t think of himself as shifty. He knows that most of the time his job is to be a bull — the toughest bull at the rodeo.
“I just want to hit the hole hard,” he said. “I’ve never been the fastest, and I’ll never be the fastest. But I can run the hardest. I always shoot for 3 or 4 yards after contact.”
Sloop trampled South Rowan for 245 yards on 37 carries as a sophomore, but that was an unsual night. Usually, he’s going to hammer out 130 or so yards on 25 carries.
He’s a coach’s delight in that he doesn’t mind running the ball 10 straight plays, but he also doesn’t mind blocking 10 straight plays if someone else has the hot hand,
Sloop’s first two years, Carson was an I-formation team under coach Mark Woody, so there’s been an adjustment to Pinyan’s wishbone offense. Sloop is normally the left halfback in a full-house backfield, along with fullback Tommy Dang, right halfback Tyler Reynolds (or Darren Isom) and QB Austin McNeill.
Sloop started slowly this season, but then he had 161 yards against strong Central Cabarrus and 111 bruising yards in the comeback win against East.
Sloop had just 28 yards at halftime against the Mustangs, including a 2-yard scoring run, but he was a sledgehammer in the second half, as Carson’s offense relied less and less on deception and more and more on being physical.
Sloop banged out mostly gains of 3 and 4 against East, but he did break a critical 21-yard TD run in the third quarter that cut East’s lead from 21-12 to 21-19.
“That was the offensive line,” Sloop said. “It just opened up when I hit the line. Then there was just the safety, and I was able to put a move on him.”
Sloop blocked hard for Reynolds on a second-half TD that put Carson up 25-21, and then Sloop scored the decisive TD in the fourth quarter. It was only the second time in his career he’s scored three touchdowns in a game.
“We had a chip on our shoulder from losing twice to East last year,” Sloop said. “Winning this one meant a lot. It meant more than anything.”