Prep Football: A.L. Brown notebook

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 11, 2008

From staff reports
The A.L. Brown notebook …
A.L. Brown has lost two games this season, and Kings Mountain eliminated both of those opponents from the playoffs before facing the Wonders in a 3AA semifinal last Friday. A.L. Brown advanced with a 30-14 victory.
The Wonders have won 10 consecutive games since a loss to Anson County dropped them to 3-2. They fell to Mooresville in Week 3.
“That first loss made us realize nothing’s promised to us,” wide receiver T.J. Johnson said. “A lot of teams that have played us this year haven’t really respected us, so we feel a lot of games we’ve gone into we’ve had to take our respect.”
BALANCING ACT: As A.L. Brown prepares for its first championship game appearance since 1997, players have worked on keeping their focus while attempting to savor the experience.
“They’re smart kids,” head coach Ron Massey said. “You want them to enjoy the opportunity, enjoy the atmosphere. They themselves can look at it that they’ve come this far, and they want to finish what they started.
“Whatever happens, the school should be very proud of what they’ve accomplished. As a group, they’ve got a little bit of a chip on their shoulder.”
DATE TO REMEMBER: Massey arrived at the NCHSAA press conference with an all-woman entourage of Kannapolis City Schools superintendent Dr. Jo Anne Byerly, principal Dr. Debra Morris and athletics secretary Susan “The Saint” Crites, who has put up with Bob Boswell, Bruce Hardin and Massey.
Massey sheepishly explained the trio was helping him shop for his wife’s birthday present.
Sherry Massey celebrated her 40th birthday on Dec. 13, 1998, the day her husband coached Kings Mountain in the 3A state championship game. The Mountaineers lost to Winston-Salem Carver.
Ten years later, she’ll celebrate another birthday and state championship game simultaneously when Brown takes on Greensboro Dudley at Wake Forest. She’ll also have a son, Zach, on the field as a tight end.
Massey declined to say out loud how many candles will be on his wife’s latest cake, but even sportswriters can figure that one out.
A LOTT TO LIKE: Massey praised senior quarterback Jamill Lott, who has enjoyed a sensational season.
“Some kids can come up with big moments at the biggest times,” Massey said. “He’s one of them, and we hope has a few more left.”
ADVERSITY: The recent death of equipment man Jimmy Smith was the latest link in a chain of adversity the Wonders have faced this season.
Massey said losing superstar running back Artrele Louis has been more difficult than anyone realizes. Imagine West Rowan without K.P. Parks and you have Brown without Louis, who was one of the nation’s most highly recruited players during the summer months.
Louis, who returned two kickoffs for touchdowns against Mooresville last season, hasn’t played all year because of a congenital spinal condition. The Wonders hoped to have him in action, almost up to opening day, but the senior has stayed on the sidelines.
“The only thing in the world that kid wants to do is put on a helmet, and he can’t,” Massey said. “People don’t understand how tough that’s been for everyone on this team because he is such a great a kid and his teammates love him so much.
“Still, he’s always there; every day he’s out there, and that’s made our kids tougher. Adversity makes you tough.”
O-LINE: Offensive line coach Todd Hagler is a believer that the longer you play the better you play, and Brown’s unheralded line seems to improve each week.
“You usually don’t get to play a lot here until you’re a senior, and we’ve had a lot of seniors who just keep improving,” Hagler said. “We don’t have any full-ride kids or 6-foot-5 kids. They’re just hard-working kids, punch-the-clock mill workers who like to play football.”

BIG CHALLENGE: Hagler said Dudley has the best defensive athletes, man-for-man, that the Wonders have seen to date.”Catholic’s defense was tough because they were always moving around and you never knew where they were gonna line up,” Hagler explained. “With Dudley, you know where they’re gonna be. They’re not gonna try to fool you. They just feel their 11 are better than your 11 and they can stop you.
“As far as our offensive line kids, it’s going to be five one-on-one battles on every play. They’re going to lose some of those battles, and they’ve got to understand that. What they’ve got to do is come back and win that next play.”
QUESTION MARKS: A.L. Brown coaches don’t know if injuries will sideline linebacker Terrance Johnson and running back Travis Riley on Saturday.
Johnson, who suffered a knee injury in the offseason, played for the first time halfway through the regular season.
He forced a fumble against Marvin Ridge to help the Wonders improve to 4-2, and he scored two defensive touchdowns four days later in a win against Parkwood.
“The kid has worked so hard to get back, so I know it’s frustrating for him,” Massey said. “That’s the great thing about this game. Even when things look bleak, it teaches lessons in life.”
Riley, a sophomore who started the season as a jayvee player, is one of three running backs A.L. Brown uses regularly.
Mike London and Bret Strelow contributed to the notebook.