A.L. Brown notebook: Tough times part of run to Western title
Published 12:00 am Monday, December 8, 2008
By Bret Strelow
KINGS MOUNTAIN ó Artrele Louis, wearing a green hooded sweatshirt underneath his white A.L. Brown jersey, joined three teammates at midfield for the coin toss.
Tight end Zach Massey stood near the same spot with his helmet in one hand after Friday’s game. “R.I.P.” and “Smitty” were written on the two eye-black strips still attached to his face.
The Wonders have faced their fair share of adversity this season, but they’re headed to the 3AA state championship game thanks to a 30-14 victory at Kings Mountain.
Louis, who was nominated for the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio, hasn’t played this season because of medical reasons. The standout running back sports his No. 8 jersey on game days and routinely contributes to the toss proceedings.
Former A.L. Brown player Kevin Cano was murdered in early November, and longtime equipment manager Jimmy “Smitty” Smith died last week. He was involved with A.L. Brown athletics for more than 30 years.
“He loved this football program,” Massey said. “He loved the people. He loved it more than anybody, and he volunteered his time for about 30 years. We really wanted to play well for him because we knew he was looking down on us.”
NEXT IN LINE: The Wonders (13-2) will meet defending champion Greensboro Dudley (15-0) in the 3AA title game at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday. The game will be played at Wake Forest’s BB&T Field in Winston-Salem.
Dudley, which claimed a 28-20 win against Charlotte Catholic in the 2007 final, edged Winston-Salem Carver and Richmond County in the first two weeks of this season. The Panthers have scored 607 points while allowing only 104.
They’ve defeated 11 of their last 13 opponents by at least 27 points ó Dudley won 28-21 against Page and 26-10 against Ragsdale. The Eastern final was a 52-7 thumping of eighth-seeded Northeast Guilford.
FIRED UP: A.L. Brown’s offense had to wait 91/2 minutes to take the field against Kings Mountain, and the Wonders immediately went to work.
Trailing 7-0 after the Mountaineers engineered a 21-play scoring drive, Jamill Lott completed a screen pass to Johnathan Williams for 43 yards on first down.
“We were anxious to get on the field,” Lott said. “We wanted to get on the field and show them what we could do.”
Williams dropped a sure touchdown on the third play of the series and Morgan McDaniel missed a 40-yard field goal, but the Wonders regained momentum when Billy Simiton intercepted a pass at Kings Mountain’s 31. His return to the 10 set up a first-and-goal, and Travis Riley scored on a 1-yard run.
PASSING FANCY: The tandem of Lott and T.J. Johnson connected twice to help the Wonders take a 21-7 lead into halftime.
A holding penalty pushed A.L. Brown back to the Kings Mountain 41 with 14.1 seconds left in the half, and Lott threw a deep pass down the left sideline. Johnson made a 33-yard reception and went out of bounds with 7.5 seconds left.
He ran a fade route to the right side of the end zone on the next play and scored a touchdown 3.3 seconds before the break.
“When we had our chances, we had to take advantage of it,” right tackle Markus Deel said.
HELPING HAND: A.L. Brown’s defense dominated after the opening series, and the Wonders caught one big break.
Kings Mountain receiver Terrance Young ran free and scored a 69-yard touchdown on a halfback pass with 5:44 left in the third quarter, but the Mountaineers were flagged for having an ineligible player downfield.
They finally cut into their 14-point deficit by scoring early in the fourth quarter. A 61-yard pass play highlighted the drive.
Lott’s 11-yard run on a fourth-and-9 play from Kings Mountain’s 31 extended the next series and enabled McDaniel to kick a 20-yard field goal that gave the Wonders a two-score lead.
Kings Mountain picked up 80 of its 180 offensive yards on the opening drive.
“We just came out and played harder,” said defensive lineman Justin Carson, who sacked quarterback Michael Roberts for a 20-yard loss in the second quarter. “There wasn’t nothing we could change. We just had to execute the plays right.”