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CHINA GROVE — Carson tackle Ryan Bearden was pleased to be named his surging team’s defensive player of the week, but that was only the second-best thing that happened on Monday.
Bearden’s big brother Patrick, who was a slugging third baseman for Carson’s baseball teams in 2009-10, has been fighting cancer for a while but he was given a clean bill of health by doctors.
“He’s cancer-free,” Ryan said “It was great news for the family.”
Ryan Bearden has been thought of mostly as a baseball prospect. As a China Grove eighth-grader, he played baseball and basketball, but not football.
But here he is making an impact for Carson football as a varsity sophomore.
“That just shows you how much size he’s got and how much athletic ability he’s got,” Carson coach Joe Pinyan said. “His motor is non-stop. He makes plays that you don’t think he’s going to make.”
Bearden has been noticeable in recent weeks. When Carson came back to beat East Rowan on a season-changing Friday, East QB Samuel Wyrick was close to scoring and tried to stretch the ball over the goal line when Bearden made a play.
“I hit his arm and knocked the ball loose, and then (cornerback) Tyrese Paul recovered it in the end zone,” Bearden explained.
Next, Bearden was one of the pass-rushers who hurried West QB Harrison Baucom and helped Carson pick off four passes in the Cougars’ first won over the Falcons.
The West game was the signature victory in a current Carson four-game winning streak that is one short of the school record.
“The last few weeks have been a blast,” Bearden said.
One thing that wasn’t fun for Carson’s defense was preparing for South Rowan last week. With South QB Aaron Kennerly injured, Carson had no idea what to expect from its rival.
“We had to try to prepare for every contingency,” Carson d-line coach Preston Davis said. “We had to plan for a pocket passer and we had to plan for the possibility of a running quarterback. We also had to consider that South might not throw at all and would just try to run (Derrick) Blackwell at us all night.”
South tried all three things — pocket-passing jayvee QB Heath Barringer, fast receiver-turned-QB Eric Stowe and 19 Blackwell carries.
Blackwell, coming off one of the most productive games in school history against Cox Mill, managed 81 yards but South netted just 125 for the night.
“Everybody played their part, played their assignments,” Davis said. “The defensive line probably had its best performance all season.”
The two key guys in the 3-5 stack defense that Pinyan used at Mooresville, Salisbury and now Carson are the nose tackle and the middle linebacker. Tonny Dang and Shrine Bowler Myquon Stout, respectively, man those vital spots for Carson.
“Tonny is the most underrated guy there is,” Bearden said. “He makes these huge gaps, and the rest of us play our gaps. We all handled our responsibilities against South and I believe everyone who played made a play.”
Bearden had three tackles for loss in the 48-6 romp over the Raiders. One was a hit on Blackwell that keyed a goal-line stand and one was a sack of Barringer, South’s pocket passer.
“I had a gap inside on the sack,” Bearden said. “Heath was rolling out away from me, but I was able to catch him.”
Besides the tackles for loss, Bearden was credited with four QB hurries on a busy Friday.
“Well, we were able to figure out that if Heath was quarterbacking, they probably were going to throw,” Bearden said. “Then it was just a case of firing off the ball.”
Bearden and Carson’s defense face a major challenge Friday. The Cougars must try to contain explosive Concord back Rocky Reid, who has been unstoppable.
“Ryan has played great against Rowan County,” Pinyan said with a grin. “We hope he plays just as well against Cabarrus.”

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