Prep Football: A.L. Brown 35, NW Cabarrus 21
By Paul Hershey
email@example.comKANNAPOLIS ó As ugly as things were for A.L. Brown in the first half against Northwest Cabarrus, the Wonders were far from out of the game despite trailing 14-0.
Coach Ron Massey stressed that to his team in the locker room.
“We told them at halftime, ‘We’re one play away from being in it,’ ” he said.
Sure enough, that one play came ó and in a hurry. On the first play from scrimmage in the second half, junior star Travis Riley broke a 75-yard touchdown run, igniting a 21-point third quarter as the Wonders rallied past the Trojans 35-21 in Friday night’s SPC showdown in front a large crowd at Northwest.
The win gave Kannapolis (9-1, 6-0) at least a share of another conference championship. The Wonders can win it outright by beating Concord next week.
“It’s a great win for us,” Massey said. “I’m just proud of our kids for persevering, coming back out in the second half and just settling down and getting back to what we do best.”
What the Wonders do best on offense is get the ball in Riley’s hands. And in the second half against Northwest, they rode their horse to victory.
Riley rushed 14 times for 193 yards and two touchdowns after halftime. He totaled 249 yards in the game, including a 55-yard score that gave Kannapolis the lead for good with 2:48 left in the third quarter.
Riley called the score on which he took a pitch right, cut back through the middle and ran away from speedy Northwest defensive back Grant Keyes a “2-yard play.” But he turned it into a whole lot more.
“Antwoine (Jordan) came through and made a great block to kick me out,” Riley said. “I was just able to cut back and outrun the guy to the sideline. I was going to run straight but I saw (the gap) so I just cut it back.”
In between the two quick strikes, Riley gained 42 yards on a 46-yard drive which quarterback Martel Campbell capped with a 1-yard run to tie the game at 14-14.
Riley was shaken up after a 15-yard rush, but returned on the Wonders’ next possession. Riley staying on the bench was the only way the Trojans were going to slow him down once he got going.
“What he does well is he’s patient,” Northwest coach Rich Williams said. “He finds those creases. I think we held the creases pretty well in the first half and he found a few in the second half and made us pay for it.”
An adjustment on offense also helped the Wonders break loose in the second half after a first half in which they gained just 82 yards and didn’t record a first down until the second quarter.
“We went with a two-tight end set,” Massey said. “It gave us one more gap that they had to cover defensively. They were taking away a lot of our stuff to the tight end side, but giving us that one extra gap was big for us.”
Kannapolis increased the lead to 28-14 early in the fourth quarter. A 23-yard reception by Tevin Jones and a couple of Riley runs helped set up Xavier Stanback’s 5-yard score. Jordan kept the drive alive by recovering a Riley fumble on the play before the touchdown.
“Our defense shut them down, got three-and-outs and gave us the ball back in good field position and then we were able to capitalize,” Massey said.
Facing the rival Wonders for the first time in five years, Northwest (7-3, 4-2) played inspired early, and didn’t go away easily.
The Trojans went to their spread offense and Jeremy Cannon engineered a 12-play, 87-yard drive, capped by his third touchdown pass of the game that made it 28-21.
The Wonders went three-and-out and Northwest got the ball back at its own 33 with 3:38 left.
But Brown’s defense got the stop to seal the game. A 4-yard sack of Cannon came between incompletions. Then a Cannon scramble on fourth-and-14 was way short.
Campbell then put it away, breaking out of the pack on a routine sneak and taking it for a 26-yard touchdown.
Cannon completed just 12 of 27 passes for 124 yards. The Wonders’ defense also sacked the standout quarterback five times and limited him to just 5 rushing yards on 17 carries
“When he spreads the field on you, that’s tough on a defense,” Massey said. “But I thought we got great pressure with four rushing a lot of times and our secondary was in good position a lot of times.”
Besides contending with a fired-up Northwest defense, Kannapolis also hurt itself with miscues in the first half.
Senior Mike Robinson tried to field a punt inside his own 10 early in the opening quarter, fumbled it and the Trojans recovered at the 1 and scored two plays later.
When the Wonders finally started moving the ball late in the second quarter, Campbell was intercepted at the Trojans’ 14 with a little over a minute left in the half.
“We probably looked like we didn’t know what we were doing in the first half,” Massey said. “We’re still a young football team and I think we got caught up in the atmosphere.”
Said Riley: “We had to get over that initial shock of them coming out and hitting us in the mouth.
“We were getting pretty mad, but we were trying to keep as calm as we could in the locker room, just like a normal game. There’s two halves to a ballgame.”
And one play can turn it all around.
NOTES: Jordan rushed for just 14 yards on 11 carries… Campbell was 6 of 12 passing for 62 yards… Junior defensive back Quin Gill had an interception for the team’s lone takeaway.
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