By Josh Hoke
CONCORD - A number of A.L. Brown Wonders have had the chance to play hero this season. Keenan Medley finally got his on Friday.
Receiver Keeon Johnson and tailback Kalif Phillips, both among the best in the stat at their positions, were expected to routinely fill that role, but injuries have derailed their seasons. Neither played on Friday. Still, a number of Wonders have been capable of filling in for their big-play abilities, and Medley was the latest to fill the void in a 38-34 South Piedmont Conference win over Cox Mill.
He scrambled for a 23-yard touchdown with 1:19 left, saving the Wonders from an upset against the big-play Chargers. Brown's defense held on fourth-and-11 from the Cox Mill 41 to preserve the win on the ensuing drive.
Brown tailback Ricky Sherrill rushed for 225 yards and J.P. Lott had 121, but it was Medley who made the big play when the Wonders needed it most. He dropped back to pass on first-and-10 from the Cox Mill 23, but pressure forced him to scramble out of the pocket to his right. Two defenders had an angle on him, but he turned the corner on them, tight-roped the sideline and dove over a Cox Mill defensive back into the end zone for the winning score.
It was a fitting conclusion for Medley, who has steadily grown as a quarterback and leader over the course of his first season under center.
"I just wanted to make a play for the team," he said. "I was going to do whatever it took. I couldn't really find anybody open on that last play. I knew I could move the ball with my feet. It happened so fast I can barely remember what happened.
"This win just shows we've got resiliency. Even when things aren't going well, we are going to work hard. It goes back to the summer and the way we trained for this season."
This was certainly a battle of will for the Wonders. Down 21-7 at one point in the first half, they battled back to take a 31-21 lead three and a half minutes into the fourth quarter on Erik Amaya's field goal. Yet, the Chargers wouldn't go away, scoring consecutive touchdowns to go up 34-31. But Brown ran the ball at will all night, and Cox Mill's defense was vulnerable again in the game's final minutes.
"Adversity will teach you a lot of things," Brown coach Mike Newsome said. "It's always better when you can fight through that adversity and still get in the win column."
Cox Mill quarterback Kelly Hall and receiver Ryan Hill nearly ended the Wonders' reign of dominance in the SPC. Hall threw for 305 yards and four touchdowns, completing 65 percent of his passes. Most of them went to Hill, who caught 10 passes, including all four scores, for 181 yards.
Hill's 45-yard scoring reception with 3:19 left had given the Chargers the three-point lead that Medley cruelly snatched away exactly two minutes later. Hill also had touchdown catches of 19, 62 and 16 yards.
He and Hall were practically unstoppable for most of the night. Hall, coolly running Cox Mill's spread option offense, rushed for another 91 yards, helping the Chargers gain 545 total yards. They outgained the Wonders by 20 yards, but Brown rushed for 451 yards, controlling the ball and slowly wearing down the home team.
"We fought and fought and fought," Cox Mill coach Greg Neuendorf said. "I couldn't be prouder of these kids. It's the toughest group of kids I've ever coached."
This game had a different feeling from the moment it finally kicked off. Delayed nearly an hour, the Chargers immediately made it obvious that they'd be no pushover. Linebacker Devin Martin picked off Medley and returned the interception 53 yards, opening the curtain on the Hall-to-Hill show.
The Chargers quarterback gained 27 yards on four consecutive rushes to open the ensuing drive before throwing a 19-yard touchdown pass to Hill. It was just the beginning of their theatrics.
Hall was 10-of-12 passing in the first half for 220 yards and three touchdowns. He started the game 7-for-7 and also rushed for 44 yards before halftime. All three touchdowns went to Hill, the senior receiver, who torched Brown's secondary for 113 yards on five first-half catches.
It took the Wonders just one play to answer Hill's first touchdown. Lott, the defensive stalwart playing a little more offense due to injuries, tied the score with a 64-yard touchdown run on the next play from scrimmage. But three plays later, Hill was back in the end zone, this time on a 62-yard score.
His 16-yard touchdown strike put the Chargers up 21-7 four minutes into the second quarter, but Brown answered on the next drive with a touchdown pass to Robert Pinkston.
Cox Mill had 303 total yards in the first half. The Wonders had 260 of their own, but 53 of them came on Medley's 53-yard quarterback draw on the last play of the first half. He scampered deep into Cox Mill territory but was brought down at the 10.
By Josh Hoke