For The Independent
OLIVE HILL —
West Carter sophomore quarterback Braden Brown has run over a defender with his eyes closed.
He plays pretty well with eyelids open, too.
The 16-year-old's numbers stick out like someone wearing a down parka in July: 56 carries for 716 rushing yards and another 168 passing despite not playing all 48 minutes in any game so far. He'd like to play a full game, but …
“I think that I'm able to fit in with our offense pretty good,” he says. “I'm a pretty good playmaker ... I don't mind (not playing a full game) if we win.”
Does the 5-foot-11, 160-pound Brown fit in with the offense? Comets head coach (and Braden's uncle) Kevin Brown would rather nobody know about his nephew so early in the season, but Braden largely is the offense.
It could take several bites of your morning corn flakes and maybe two cups of coffee to digest Braden's numbers.
In parts of four games, he has: 884 yards and 11 touchdowns altogether; a school-record 319 rushing with five touchdowns on just 18 carries in a 53-45 overtime loss Aug. 30 at Bath County; 156 and 119 yards, respectively, in wins over Nicholas County (55-0) on Sept. 6 and Morgan County (30-25) Sept. 13; and 122 on just eight carries and two touchdowns in the first half of last Friday's 60-35 loss at Greenup County before missing all but one play of the second half with a sprained left ankle.
“We knew going into the season, if we were going to be very successful, I was going to have to play very well,” Braden Brown said. “So far, I think we've been able to execute pretty good on offense.”
You're still not at least a tad impressed? Of the 1,422 total yards West Carter has gained for the season, Brown's 884 accounts for 62.2 percent, which elicits extremely rhapsodic praise from his teammates.
“He's the Peyton Manning of the (Eastern Kentucky Conference),” sophomore receiver Zach Walker said.
Another Peyton, Braden's younger brother, says he “can survive on his own” because he's “mature for his age.”
And there's this, from sophomore lineman Caden Stephens: “He's gotten stronger. He can take charge at any time.”
Morgan County coach Brian Turner said Brown's strength is watching a defender's shoulders. He watched Brown shred his defense mostly around the ends — in the 30-25 West Carter win on Sept. 13. He remembers a third-down-and-nine with less than three minutes to go.
“The one thing that we really struggled with was, they spread you out with their formation,” Turner said. “Then there's the inside dive, an off-tackle trap and a quarterback sweep off every play. We had to be fundamental across the board. We couldn't just commit to stopping (Brown).
“He had speed, it made it difficult for our (defensive ends) to contain. We tell our kids they're going to come with a quarterback sweep. They needed nine (yards), he got 10.”
Kevin Brown and Braden's dad, Comets offensive coordinator Brian Brown, first saw the nascent football player when Braden was a second-grader in West Carter’s Junior Football League. Kevin said Braden watched games two and three hours at a time, and he saw instincts you can't teach even then.
“Even then he had good cutting ability and was smart,” said Kevin Brown. “It was just because he had great interest it.”
Braden said football always interested him for at least three reasons.
“I always liked the mix of athleticism, speed and strength, and I always thought it was the overall best athletic sport,” he said.
Running Braden around the end worked well against Greenup County though the Comets fell, 60-35, last Friday in Lloyd. Three first-quarter plays tell a story.
Midway through the first quarter, Brian Brown called for “Q Trey Left,” where right guard Ryan Conley and right tackle Austin Kilgore sweep left and Braden follows. Instead, Braden cut back to the middle and went untouched for a 67-yard touchdown.
“... He'll make the read and cut off the trap block,” Brian Brown said. “If he meets resistance, he'll take it on out and keep going.”
The second, “Q Trap,” features just a pulling guard. Braden cut to the middle again for 31 yards, which led to a Jacob Nunley score from three yards out. The third, “Lightning,” was supposed to be a pass, but Braden converted it to a three-yard touchdown run just before halftime because defenders dropped in coverage.
Like any other Comet, Braden Brown wants a winning record, which would be West Carter's first since 2010 and just the second since 1986. He also wants a trip to the Class 3A playoffs for the third time in four seasons. He has simple goals for this season.
“I'm really trying to get us a winning record,” he said. “Anything else that comes along with that would be, I figure, cake.”
Doubtful for Friday
Brian Brown wrote in an email Monday that his son "has a real bad high ankle sprain" and not a fracture. He also said Braden's ankle is still swollen and that he's having trouble walking.
Braden hurt his ankle early in the third quarter against Greenup County last Friday.
"Right now I would say (Braden's status is) very doubtful Friday vs. Russell unless some serious improvement happens the next few days," Brian Brown wrote.
Kevin Brown said if the injury sufficiently heals, Braden would play only on offense against the Red Devils. Sophomore Chase Hanshaw played quarterback in last Saturday's second half at Greenup County, and freshman Ethan Brown filled in for him at cornerback.