Friday Night Hero: A.L. Brown’s Mike Robinson
By Mike London
KANNAPOLIS ó A.L. Brown is 8-1, but it doesn’t look extra-scary on film.
Well, maybe that square-jawed, 200-pound tailback wearing No. 31 does.
And that lean, mean linebacker in No. 7 who looks like he just parachuted off a Marine Corps recruiting poster definitely does.
But not all Wonders look like Travis Riley or Desmond Gray.
Most are normal citizens.
Brown’s dynasty has rolled to 32 straight winning seasons on the muscular backs of the Ethan Hortons and Nick Maddoxes, but every one of those 32 teams included over-achievers.
This year’s team has a secondary full of them. The starting DBs average 150 pounds, even with lanky free safety Jaques Deese standing 6-foot-2. The honor of smallest of the small is a dead heat. Senior cornerbacks Mike Robinson and Josh Black are both 5-6, 145.
“We depend on those two because coming into this year they were the only experience we had in the secondary,” coach Ron Massey said. “They’re good athletes with good vertical leaps, and that helps them make up for their size. They also have good technique because Coach (James) Lott does a great job with them. When kids are in the right place most of the time, that’s when you get interceptions.”
Despite its lack of height at corner, Brown’s pass defense has been good other than the Kings Mountain game when it surrendered 256 yards in a 56-28 victory.
The Wonders have held five teams under 100 yards through the air and won seven straight.
“People have said all year we were the weak link, but we’ve covered ’em pretty good and we’ve got nine picks,” Robinson said.
Four of those nine picks went for six points, including Robinson’s 29-yard return that gave the Wonders a touchdown shortly before halftime against Central Cabarrus.
“It was a high pass that got tipped by the receiver,” Robinson said. “And that’s why we do all those tip drills.”
Brown coaches believe the pass defense had its best performance Friday in a 38-13 win against Hickory Ridge in a showdown for first place in the SPC. No picks, but Hickory Ridge completed just two of 15 passes for 12 yards.
“We had three interceptions against Mount Pleasant, but the team didn’t play well, so we had to redeem ourselves,” Robinson said. “Hickory Ridge was 4-0 in the league and we were 4-0, so we were playing hard for the conference.”
Robinson’s contributions included a punt return of 50 yards. Quick and fearless, he’s often been a weapon in the return game.
“It was a middle call on that punt return, but I juked outside, and then I broke me some ankles,” Robinson said with a smile. “Des Gray got a block. Then Keenan (Williamson) got a block and Dana (Moss) got a block. There were more blocks I can’t remember, but everybody got a block.”
Robinson said he owes a lot to Lott, a former Wonder who starred at Clemson and played briefly in the NFL.
“He’s coached me three years, and we all look up to him,” Robinson said. “He’s been where we want to go.”
Next to Lott, Robinson credits his mother for his survival as a 5-6 corner.
“Every team I’ve ever played on my whole life I was the smallest guy,” he said. “Mom encouraged me. She said all I had to do was play 10 times harder than everyone else, and that’s what I’ve always tried to do. Play with some heart. Lay it on the field.”