Friday Night Hero: A.L. Brown’s Zach Massey
By Mike London
KANNAPOLIS ó A decade ago, 8-year-old Kings Mountain ballboy Zach Massey hated Kannapolis more than Redskins fans hated Troy Aikman.
“I was always on the sidelines with my dad when he coached Kings Mountain,” Massey said. “I remember the first year we lost at Kannapolis in the playoffs. I hated that lit-up ‘K,’ I hated the cannon and I hated the fireworks. I hated everything about it.”
A.L. Brown went on to win the 3A state title in 1997.
Kings Mountain earned a rematch in the third round in 1998, and Massey had resigned himself to more misery at Memorial Stadium.”No one gave us a chance, but we won,” he said. “The everlasting memory I have is seeing Nick Maddox ó he was such a great player ó sitting on the bench crying. It was Nick’s last game.”
The 8-year-old’s first thought was, “Cool, we made Nick Maddox cry.” But now that he’s an 18-year-old senior, Massey gets it.
Now he understands how Maddox felt. Now he’s worn the green and white, he’s made the cannon fire and he’s gained an understanding of the tradition.
Massey also realizes his own tears aren’t far away. Either championship tears of joy or tears of agony sitting on a cold bench with the crowd filing out and high school football ending forever.
Massey’s father, Ron, was picked as A.L. Brown’s new coach after the 1999 season. The news staggered Zach.
“I was like, ‘We’re moving to Kannapolis? What is this?’ ” he remembers.Massey liked hoops best for years after the move, but he eventually grew to 6-foot-1, 210 pounds and found a home as Brown’s tight end.
“My father is my coach on the field, but he’s my dad off it,” Massey said. “We don’t talk football at home a lot, but we might be eating and he’ll ask if I think a certain formation will work or not.
“He likes to kid me. He’ll say, ‘Gosh, Zach, an athlete would’ve scored on that play.’ This year at Concord, I missed a pass in the end zone. But later I caught a touchdown. Dad walks by and he says, ‘If you’d dropped that one, I was kicking you out of the house.’ ”
Great grades and great hands make Massey a college prospect. He’s grabbed 46 passes in three varsity seasons. His eighth career TD came on that redemption score against Concord, and No. 9 came in a 42-27 playoff victory against Lake Norman on Saturday. He made a spin move that shocked everyone ó both Masseys included ó to get to the end zone.
It was a pivotal six, finishing a drive to start the third quarter after Lake Norman had trimmed a 21-0 deficit to 21-14 by halftime.
“We relaxed, and you can’t do that,” Massey said. “Dad came in the locker room and started screaming. Just words. I don’t think he even knew what he was saying he was so mad. Then he kicked over a trash can and made a little mess.”The coach also made his point. The Wonders (10-2) took care of business.
All coaches are close to players, but Ron Massey has a unique bond with the Class of 2009. Not just because of Zach, but because these are the young men he’s watched his son grow up with.
“Dad knows so many of the guys so well,” Zach said. “He likes to pick on guys like (offensive lineman) Chris Shaw. Chris works at Hardee’s, and we’ll stop and Dad will order a shake. Then he’ll say it loud enough for everyone to hear that he doesn’t want Chris Shaw making his milkshake.”The season began with adversity, but it’s gaining momentum. Both Masseys have done their part.
“I’ve cherished every minute,” Zach said. “I’d say my feelings about Kannapolis have totally changed.”
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