Prep Football: A.L. Brown 34, Robinson 14
By Paul Hershey
CONCORD ó Beginning with Friday night’s South Piedmont Conference opener at Jay M. Robinson, A.L. Brown will be big favorites every time it takes the field for the rest of the regular season.
So head coach Ron Massey and the Wonders are stressing the importance of being mentally focused.
While the execution wasn’t always perfect against Robinson, Kannapolis’ focus ó along with its superior talent ó was more than enough to translate into an easy 34-14 win.
Four different Wonder offensive players found the end zone in the game and they led 34-0 after a 20-point third quarter.
“We had a lot of mental mistakes last week and we had to come out this week at practice and focus and be ready for this game,” said running back Travis Riley, who rushed for 117 yards and a touchdown.
Kannapolis (4-1, 1-0) outgained Robinson 217-61 in the opening half, but missed on two scoring opportunities to settle for a 14-0 edge.
Robinson (1-4, 0-1) started the second half with a 72-yard kickoff return, but the Wonders’ defense held on downs, capped by Dominique Phifer’s sack.
Kannapolis took over and drove 66 yards on 10 rushing plays, capped by Antwoine Jordan’s 13-yard score.
“We didn’t really try to put them away in the first half like we should,” Massey said. “But I thought coming out in the second half with the defense making the stop and the offense taking it down and scoring was very big.”
The Wonders’ defense then forced turnovers on the Bulldogs’ next two possessions, leading to two quick touchdowns. Phifer recovered a fumble at the Robinson 27, and Xavier Stanback’s 3-yard run made it 27-0.
Defensive back Jaques Deese then stepped in front of a pass from Robinson backup quarterback Joey Bastine and returned it 35 yards for the defense’s second score in as many games.
“We’re giving up some plays, but we’re being real aggressive and making some,” Massey said of his team’s new-look “34” defense. “I was glad to see them get another score tonight.”
A week after forcing four turnovers against Kings Mountain, Kannapolis recorded three in this one, and scored off of each one.
The Wonders also limited Robinson, which was playing without injured starting quarterback Robert Cloninger, to 72 total yards through the first three quarters.
“We’re trying to make them a little more mobile and athletic,” Massey said. “It’s going well. We’ve still got a long way to go, though.”
Offensively, the Wonders once again did their work mostly on the ground, rushing for 307 yards despite a concerted effort to establish the passing game in the first half ó even with wet conditions.
Quarterback Martel Campbell completed 4 of 13 passes for 62 yards ó all in the first two quarters.
Campbell threw to Tyler Gilmore for a 33-yard gain on the first possession to the Robinson 11.
The drive stalled, though, after a botched snap and two incompletions.
“I thought we didn’t score a couple times on offense,” Massey said. “We wanted to try to work on our passing game a little bit in the first half. We saw some things that were good. We broke down on pressure a couple of times and a couple times we just didn’t hit. It’s tough weather to throw the ball in.”
Following an interception by Josh Black, the Wonders got on the board on their second drive, a seven-play, 57-yard march that included runs of 19 and 22 by Riley. He capped it by plowing in from the Robinson 2 for his 14th touchdown of the season.
Kannapolis took advantage of great field position for its second score midway into the second quarter. The defense forced a three-and-out inside Robinson’s 10 and a 16-yard punt set the offense up at the Bulldogs’ 23.
Campbell scored on a 7-yard keeper around right end for the 14-0 lead.
“We know coming in that we’re pretty good at running the football and people are going to change fronts on us and do some things,” Massey said. “The thing we want to do is be efficient enough to make the right decisions at quarterback and on the offensive line to take us out of bad plays.
“We’ve just got to get better. We’re hitting a stretch right now where obviously we’re going to be favored. We’ve just got to focus at practice and make sure that we don’t put ourselves in a trap.”
The Wonders host winless Central Cabarrus and Cox Mill the next two weeks.
“It’s hard,” Riley said about staying focused against inferior competition. “But you’ve got to go into it like it’s a state championship game every week and be mentally ready.”
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