Prep Football: A.L. Brown 34, Thomasville 28
By David Shaw
THOMASVILLE ó From Martel Campbell’s perspective, it was time for A.L. Brown’s football team to stop barking and take a bite.
The junior quarterback ó who missed last week’s narrow loss at South Rowan with a concussion ó was possibly the most important player on the field in the closing moments of Friday’s riveting 34-28 victory at Thomasville.
“We knew we couldn’t lose two weeks in a row,” Campbell said after the Wonders rallied from a two-touchdown halftime deficit. “That wasn’t gonna happen.”
It was that kind of steadfast determination that helped Kannapolis (2-1) win a game it easily could have lost. The Wonders were nearly roped and tied in the first half. Their defense yielded passing plays that went for 44- and 49-yard gains. Their offense was scorched for a 41-yard interception return for a touchdown. And their special teams unit had more holes than the president’s tax plan. When Thomasville running back Quin Riley sprinted 57 yards for a score on the last play of the half, Kannapolis trudged to its dressing room trailing 28-14.
“You know, we just came out and weren’t real focused,” K-town running back Travis Riley said after rushing for 141 yards and scoring four TD’s. “That may have been good for us. We were a different team in the second half.”
They were ó on both sides of the ball. The Wonders took the second-half kickoff and navigated 69 yards in seven plays, drawing within seven points and setting a tone for the remaining 21 minutes.
“We could have rolled over very easily when they scored late in the half,” said coach Ron Massey, who now has career 99 victories. “But getting back out in the second half and getting that first drive and doing something with it, that probably kept us in the ballgame.”
The Wonders’ defense was at its best in the final two quarters. Thomasville (1-2), which suffered its second consecutive loss at Cushwa Stadium, advanced to the Kannapolis 5-yard line on its first possession of the third period. But fullback Kesean Green was mugged by a cadre of tacklers in the backfield for a loss on fourth-and-2.
“We started throwing some blitzes and started subbing more because guys were getting hurt,” said defensive tackle Dana Moss. “The offense was scoring and controlling the clock and we were blitzing front fours and front sevens. Everybody started hitting their gaps. We figured if we kept winning the battles we’d win the war.”
Kannapolis tied the score shortly after junior Dominique Phifer recovered a Thomasville fumble late in the third quarter. Campbell fired spirals to Riley and Tevin Jones (5 receptions, 58 yards), then handed off to Riley for a 1-yard touchdown burst with 10:46 remaining.
“He’s such a great athlete,” said Campbell, who passed for 109 yards and scampered for another 76.
“And great athletes have a way of coming up big.”
Especially the ones without the ball. Only 8:35 remained when Kannapolis defenders Jaques Deese and Desmond Gray corralled Quin Riley for a 5-yard loss on fourth-and-short near midfield. Moments later, the Wonders’ defense forced a punt from midfield. Then after Travis Riley scored his ninth TD of the young season ó on a decisive, 2-yard sweep into the left corner with less than a minute to play ó the Kannapolis defense turned into steel again.
Thomasville’s final charge up the hill began at its own 37 with 39.8 seconds on the clock. Quarterback Sam Nelson fired an incomplete pass on first down and another on second. The suddenly, he hit the dangerous Brandon Lucas on a slant across the middle, good for a 30-yard pickup. But DB Kaleel Hollis dislodged the ball and Moss pounced on it like it was a late-night snack.
“We’re all taught to do that, to trail and pursue,” Moss said. “When I saw it come out I was about five yards away and I jumped right to it. No one wanted to go home with another loss.”