Prep Football: A.L. Brown 44, Shelby 0
By Josh Hoke
SHELBY — A.L. Brown made its fans sweat until the very end of the 2011 season opener. Those same fans barely broke a sweat this time.
Despite losing a bevy of senior leadership to graduation, the Wonders may have gained some wisdom this offseason. They certainly learned from last season’s season-opening debacle against the Shelby Golden Lions, who trailed by 30 at halftime but narrowly lost.
History didn’t repeat itself in 2012. The Wonders unleashed a powerful running game and hammered Shelby 44-0 at Blanton Stadium Thursday.
“I think they made a big statement,” Brown coach Mike Newsome said of his players.“I think these guys have a big chip on their shoulders. They’ve heard all year about all the guys that graduated and how we wouldn’t be as good as we were last year. They want to prove to people that they are going to be better. They want to be the best team Kannapolis has ever had.”
This Brown team certainly has the potential to feature one of the best running attacks in school history. That’s big praise considering the numbers that Nick Maddox compiled in his career, but Kalif Phillips, Ricky Sherrill and Robert Pinkston formed a lethal triumvirate that rushed for 272 of the Wonders’ 369 rushing yards. Brown’s Malik Patterson threw in a 73-yard touchdown run for good measure.
Newsome was especially pleased to see Sherrill, a South Rowan transfer who sat out the 2011 season, provide a dynamic, between-the-tackles option. He will likely handle much of the inside running for the Wonders, sparing the faster Phillips from taking a lot of unnecessary hits.
“He’s fast and I’ve got the power,” Sherrill said of Phillips. “It felt great to get out here. I wasn’t nervous. I was just ready to go. It’s been a long time. I just wanted to show people what I can do.”
Sherrill rushed for 120 yards on 10 carries, including bruising runs of 27, 28 and 23 yards early in the second half. Phillips rarely played in the second half of blowouts last season, and considering Sherrill’s ability to move the chains, that may be the case once again.
“If you just look at one of us, the other will break loose,” said Phillips, who rushed for 102 yards and two scores. “I love the way Ricky runs the ball. He’s a powerful back. That’s what we needed, somebody who will fight for that extra yardage. He’ll break the long ones, too.”
Outside of a 53-yard kickoff return in the third quarter, Shelby didn’t barely put together any big plays in a deflating effort. The Wonders led just 16-0 at the break, but a touchdown pass to Keeon Johnson three minutes into the second half – which was set up by Phillips’ 38-yard punt return – started the onslaught.“I’m very disappointed,” Shelby coach Lance Ware said. “We weren’t ready to play. That starts with me. I didn’t do a good job of getting us ready. They whipped us on both sides of the ball. I think they are really good, but I don’t think we played very well.”
Shelby managed just 53 rushing yards and didn’t move the ball with much more consistency through the air, completing 12-of-18 passes for 103 yards. The Golden Lions punted seven times, fumbled twice, threw an interception and missed a field goal.The Wonders put the game away early in the second half, scoring touchdowns on four consecutive drives.
Early last season the running game carried the Wonders, and that may be the case again in 2012 as new starting quarterback Keenan Medley adapts to being under center. He was 4-of-9 passing, but showed an ability to link up with Johnson, the team’s big, dynamic receiver. The duo linked up for a one-yard gain on Brown’s opening play of the season.
Much like last season’s matchup, the Wonders jumped out to an early lead behind the dependable legs of Phillips. Though he was the pivotal cog in the offense last season, he didn’t get a touch until the team’s six offensive snap Thursday. Surprisingly, the Wonders went three-and-out on their first drive with him playing decoy.
However, he rushed 30 yards on his first touch of the season, immediately gained for seven more and then scored a five-yard rushing touchdown on the next play, giving the Wonders an early lead and showing that he won’t be any easier to bring down in 2012 than he was in 2011.
“It doesn’t matter to me when I touch the ball,” Phillips said. “Once I get the ball, I’m getting positive yards.”
Phillips had 100 rushing yards in the first half, more than twice what the Golden Lions had as a team. Shelby’s preferred method of attack, the passing game, completed 7-of-10 pass for 61 first-half yards.