3AA final: Dudley 34, A.L. Brown 18
Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 13, 2008
By Bret Strelow
WINSTON-SALEM ó The white towel dangling from Colby Reid’s waist came loose and floated through the air as the A.L. Brown receiver attempted to track down a deep throw from Jamill Lott.
The Wonders never waved a white flag against Greensboro Dudley, but the powerful Panthers proved worthy of their reputation during a 34-18 victory against Brown in the 3AA state championship game at Wake Forest’s BB&T Field on Saturday night.
“Our kids are disappointed, but if you hang around athletics long enough, you’re going to run up against a buzzsaw like we ran up against tonight,” A.L. Brown coach Ron Massey said. “We’d have liked to have had a little bit better game, but I thought effort-wise we couldn’t ask for much more than we got. We made some mistakes, but they created a lot of them on their own.”
Lott threw touchdown passes to Reid and Zach Massey but was sacked five times and limited to minus-7 yards on 15 official carries.
Dudley (16-0) rushed for 355 yards thanks to the efforts of quarterback Ricky Lewis (160 yards, two touchdowns) and running back J.R. Peterson (147 yards, two TDs).
Lewis, who led the Panthers past Charlotte Catholic in the 2007 final, repeated as the game MVP.
“We controlled the line of scrimmage on offense,” Dudley coach Steven Davis said. “Starting around the second quarter, it seemed like the holes started getting a little bigger. Defensively, I thought we put a lot of pressure on the quarterback all night, not letting them run it.”
The third quarter ended with A.L. Brown (13-3) trailing 34-6 and Lott standing on the sideline following a vicious hit that briefly knocked him out of the game.
His 14-yard scramble set up Antwoine Jordan’s 2-yard touchdown run with 10:47 remaining, and Mark Goodjohn recovered a mishandled kickoff at Dudley’s 17-yard line.
Lott’s 14-yard touchdown pass to Massey cut the Wonders’ deficit to 16 points with 9:15 left, and A.L. Brown’s Xavier Watson recovered an onside kick.
“The last thing you want to do on this stage is play poorly and get blown out,” Ron Massey said. “The way they kept hanging in there and making a play here and there, scrapping for everything we had, I was very proud of them.”
Watson’s recovery occurred at Dudley’s 46, and the Wonders’ comeback hopes ended when a throw on fourth-and-8 fell incomplete.
“As long as you gave it your all and left it on the field for 48 minutes, you did your job and there’s no use to cry,” A.L. Brown defensive lineman Aaron Davidson said. “They’re a good football team.”
Saturday’s game started with A.L. Brown’s defense giving up a time-consuming touchdown drive, but that’s where the similarities to a state semifinal victory against Kings Mountain ended.
The Mountaineers opened the Western final with a 21-play series that lasted 91/2 minutes. Dudley’s Lewis capped a 15-play drive by scoring on a 16-yard run with 4:17 remaining in the first quarter.
Lewis took a helmet to his left knee while being upended by Watson midway through the possession, and backup quarterback Demetrius Dick replaced the hobbled Lewis.
“I was praying on that,” Dudley defensive MVP Josh Jones said.
Lewis missed two snaps before returning, and he reached the end zone six plays later.
“He’s our guy on offense,” Davis said. “When he goes, the offense goes.”
The Panthers don’t kick extra points, and Lott took the field for the first time with his team trailing 8-0. He connected with Reid for a 60-yard touchdown on the Wonders’ fifth offensive play.
Reid broke open in the middle of the field and caught Lott’s pass at the Dudley 35.
“They had Colby one-on-one, so I just took that chance,” Lott said. “I’m glad it paid off into a quick score.”
The Panthers’ offense continued to present problems.
Dudley posted touchdowns on its first three possessions and didn’t punt until midway through the third quarter. A.L. Brown’s Dana Moss recovered a fumbled pitch at the Panthers’ 39 with 35 seconds left in the first half, but the Wonders made no progress and went into the locker room trailing 20-6.
Dudley ran 38 first-half plays, nearly twice as many as A.L. Brown, and gained 230 yards on 37 rushes. Lewis had 139 yards at the break.
“He sees the seam, and once he sees it, he hits the hole hard,” Watson said. “He’s a great runner. We knew it was going to be a fight coming in.”
Dudley’s defense forced a three-and-out to begin the third quarter, and Peterson followed with the first of two touchdowns he scored in the period.
The Panthers weathered the storm created by their special-teams mishaps and started celebrating once Dudley’s Jeremy Reynolds picked off a desperate fourth-down pass with three minutes left.
Lewis took a knee for the final time at the Wonders’ 27 and sprinted to the opposite end zone before being tackled by his teammates. A.L. Brown players and coaches made the slow march to midfield.
“We had a great season, and we’ve had a great run for nine years,” Massey said. “You wish it would have been a different story tonight, but we’ll go back to work and try to go one more game next year.”