Prep Football: Concord 21, A.L. Brown 14
By David Shaw
CONCORD - The regular season is done, but quite obviously, A.L. Brown's football team is not.
The playoff-bound Wonders played their hearts out in Friday's SPC finale at Concord, only to have them broken in the game's final minute.
"It would have been interesting if we had scored," coach Mike Newsome said after Kannapolis dropped a 21-14 decision and relinquished its two-year grip on the famed victory bell. "We probably would have went for two and tried to win the ballgame. But you know, it's high school kids."
The Wonders (8-3, 5-2) never got the chance to find out. They lost the ball on a fumble on a first-and-goal play from Concord's 7-yard line with 45.9 seconds remaining - setting off a rollicking celebration. Concord's half of the nearly-7,000 strong who sardined themselves into Bailey Stadium had to be restrained from rushing the field.
"At the end of the day, we've just got to keep moving forward," K-town senior Tim Gallon said, offering a smile that masked pain. "It hurts really bad to lose this way. But if you dwell on this, it will eat you up."
Winning coach Glen Padgett wasn't surprised after 275-pound freshman nose guard Dez Scott made the game-clinching fumble recovery. "In this game, this rivalry, nothing surprises me any more," he said. "You're gonna have crazy plays and crazy things happening."
Concord (9-2, 5-2) fired the battle's first volley after gaining possession on a first-quarter fumble. Shrine Bowl QB B.J. Beecher (12-for-22, 209 yards) completed three passes on a nine-play, 76-yard scoring drive, including a 32-yarder to Carter Mozingo on a slant pattern across the middle. Beecher capped the drive when he rifled a 7-yard touchdown pass to Alex Asbury.
"We had to find a way," Beecher said after tossing three TD passes. "I told the offensive line, 'We've worked way too hard all season to give in now.' If anything, this is what we're going to be remembered for."
Kannapolis, which punted following four of its first five possessions, suddenly logged on late in the first half. Junior quarterback Andrew Ramirez, subbing for the injured Keenan Medley, completed successive passes to wideout Keeon Johnson - one that gained 42 yards and another that picked up 30. On first down Ramirez handed off to Kalif Phillips, who barged into the end zone from 2 yards out.
"Andrew stepped up and played a fabulous game," Newsome said after Ramirez passed for 157 yards. "It's hard for a backup quarterback to come and play like this, in this atmosphere, and really play great."
The Spiders snapped the tie when Beecher spiraled a 59-yard bullet right down Broadway to Zosh Heilig, who outran everyone in the Kannapolis secondary with 1:29 to play in the third period. Then early in the fourth, Beecher and Asbury hooked up again on an 8-yard touchdown play, pushing CHS to a 21-7 lead.
"We're not the only team to watch film," Gallon said with a post-game chuckle. "They were watching us, too. Defensively, I don't think we did anything wrong. It just wasn't our night."
Kannapolis scored the game's final touchdown after possessing the ball for 6:47 in the fourth quarter. Robert Pinkston's fumble recovery on a mid-drive punt extended the opportunity - and fullback Ricky Sherrill cashed in when he scored on a 1-yard burst with 5:01 remaining.
Moments later the Wonders were back in the driver's seat, navigating from their own 20 to the Concord 7 with less than a minute to play. But the march stalled when Ramirez mishandled a snap and Scott made his second fumble recovery of the night.
"The adreneline was rushing," Ramirez explained. "I was trying to get the ball to Kalif. But I guess I just pulled out too fast."
Newsome tried to console his dejected quarterback following the team's post-game huddle. "When you make a mistake in this game, it's magnified," he said. "They made mistakes, we made mistakes, it happens. These guys have to understand you can lose this game and still go win a state championship. That's what we've got to start doing on Monday."