Strelow column: Wonders full of smiles, shivers
KINGS MOUNTAIN óThe majority of A.L. Brown players were smiling, and soaked head coach Ron Massey was shivering.
Brown senior Dwayne Stroud stood in stunned silence as teammates celebrated in front of him.
The visiting Wonders had just won 30-16 against Kings Mountain to clinch a berth in next weekend’s 3AA state championship game, but the revelation that Independence had lost to Richmond County dampened Stroud’s spirits.
Stroud was a member of a state title team at Independence before he moved to Kannapolis.
“That’s a little bit of a letdown,” he said. “I still talk to them on the regular.”
Stroud has rarely worn his championship ring around his teammates this season, but they can earn a collection of their own with a victory against Greensboro Dudley on Saturday at BB&T Field in Winston-Salem.
The Wonders endured a rough start against Kings Mountain, now coached by Greg Lloyd, but picked up their 10th consecutive win in convincing fashion.
Jamill Lott finished with the upper hand in a matchup of mobile quarterbacks. He ran for one touchdown and found T.J Johnson on a fade route for a crucial score 3.3 seconds before halftime.
The Mountaineers trailed 21-7 at the break and finally scratched for the second time early in the fourth quarter.
Kings Mountain quarterback Michael Roberts accounted for six touchdowns and more than 450 yards of offense in a 56-55 state quarterfinal win against Anson County, and he looked poised for a repeat performance. He directed a 21-play, 80-yard touchdown drive to open Friday’s game.
The Mountaineers converted five third downs and one fourth down on a series that consumed the first 91/2 minutes.
“We had to get settled in, and what they do is so hard offensively ó they get out of the huddle so quick,” A.L. Brown defensive coordinator Noah Lyon said. “We practiced for it, but it caught us off-balance early until we got used to it. I think as the game went on we got better.”
That’s an understatement.
Kings Mountain ran 10 more plays in the first half and lost a total of 9 yards on them.
The Wonders sacked Roberts three times, forced him to throw his first interception since Oct. 3 and limited him to 31 rushing yards on 25 carries. Running back Joe Chambers had 22 yards on 14 attempts.
“We were moving and doing some things up front that I think maybe they hadn’t seen,” Lyon said.
“Actually, a time or two it hurt us, but at the same time our kids played hard. Sometimes you screw up, and if the kids are playing hard, they’ll make up for it.”
The Wonders could start celebrating once a fourth-down throw from Roberts fell incomplete with 1:15 remaining. Lott, who also contributed as a defensive back in the closing minutes, received congratulatory slaps from Xavier Watson and Dana Moss as he remained on the field in order to take the final snaps.
The outcome had additional meaning to Massey and his son, Zach, a senior tight end.
Ron Massey coached Kings Mountain from 1995-99, and the Mountaineers beat A.L. Brown en route to a state runner-up finish in 1998. His son was a ballboy for that team.
“When we first got here and stepped off the bus, there was a rush of emotion,” Zach said. “I remember being a little fat kid as the ballboy on the sideline. This field means so much to me, and this city means so much to me.”
A sign in front of the student section on the home side declared, “Hey Massey, it’s Lloyd’s house now,” but many Kings Mountain fans approached Ron and Zach after the game to offer well-wishes. A few introduced themselves by name to Zach because they weren’t sure he’d recognize them.
“In 1998, we had two coaches who had senior kids on the team,” Ron Massey said. “To watch them enjoy that and enjoy going to Chapel Hill was real special.
“We’re going to do the same thing and enjoy it. I know we’re playing Dudley, and Dudley is an outstanding football team. Our kids will fight for it.”
Several coaches, including Massey, were unable to avoid being victimized by the remnants of overturned water coolers as the final seconds ticked down.
Zach encountered his father while exiting the field after one offensive series late in the fourth quarter, but it wasn’t a Hallmark moment.
“He was too busy yelling at me for talking to the refs,” Zach said with a laugh. “It’s just great, especially senior season. He’s been coaching for so long, he deserves a state title. I want to be in the class that gets that for him.”
Contact Bret Strelow at 704-797-4258 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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