Prep Football Playoffs: A.L. Brown 45, Asheville Erwin 27
By Paul Hershey
KANNAPOLIS ó A.L. Brown senior lineman Tavis Bailey said the pressure was on the Wonders’ offense against Erwin in Friday night’s NCHSAA 3AA second-round playoff game because they knew the 11th-seeded Warriors could score.
And before Erwin’s quick-strike offense got going, Brown’s offense put the visitors in too big a hole to come back from.
Led by a big game from quarterback Martel Campbell, third-seeded Brown jumped out to a 21-0 lead early in the second quarter and maintained a double-digit advantage throughout on its way to a 45-27 win.
“We just want to keep going,” Campbell said. “We’re not done yet.”
The Wonders (11-2) will play at home again next week against No. 7 seed South Point.
Coming into the playoffs, the big question for Brown was how its offense would fare if and when standout running back Travis Riley was contained.
On this night – at least – the answer was just fine.
Riley had a relatively quiet 59 rushing yards on 21 carries, but Campbell and Antwoine Jordan picked up the slack, accounting for 344 total yards between them.
“We’ve kind of hung our hat on (Riley) running the football and it’s good for us to be able to do some things like that and for other people to step up,” Brown head coach Ron Massey said.
But first it was the defense that stepped up.
On the game’s second offensive play, Brown senior defensive lineman Dana Moss drilled Erwin running back Martese Jackson in the backfield, forcing a fumble and teammate Jaques Deese recovered at the Warriors’ 17.
Three plays later, Campbell threw the first of his two touchdown passes, hitting tight end Spencer Falls in the back of the end zone for a 14-yard score.
“We just had a play-action fake and I was able to get my eyes up, the free safely bit on it and we were able get over top and get it in the end zone,” Campbell said.
After an Erwin three-and-out, the Wonders got good field position at their own 46 and took six plays to get back in the end zone. Campbell followed a 13-yard run with a 30-yard completion to Tyler Gilmore to the Erwin 3 and Riley powered in from there to make it 14-0 just over six minutes into the game.
“Martel did a good job running the offense and keeping us in some positions to do some things and hitting some big passes for us on play-action,” Massey said. “And the receivers catching the ball.”
On its next possession, Brown marched 71 yards and got a break along the way to add to the lead.
Erwin’s defense snuffed out a reverse-pass play by Gilmore, forcing an incompletion on 3rd and 8 – and likely a Wonders’ punt. However, referees ruled there was an inadvertant whistle and decided to replay the down.
Brown capitalized on the second chance with Jordan bursting up the middle for a 36-yard gain which set up his own 2-yard touchdown on the first play of the second quarter for a 21-0 advantage.
“They won the (coin) toss and wanted the football so I thought they knew they were going to have to score a bunch of points,” Massey said. “For us to get the stop and get the ball back real quick a couple times and be able to stick it in the end zone… it’s always to good to get out like that.”
Jordan’s run was the first of four combined touchdowns to be scored in just over four minutes of action as the Warriors finally got into the act.
Jackson, 5-foot-6, 160 pound speedster, accounted for two of those four. He started with a 41-yard run that set up a 9-yard score and later went up the middle untouched for a 75-yard touchdown.
“We don’t have anybody that can run with him,” Massey said of Jackson, who had 30 touchdown runs coming in, including four against Charlotte Catholic last week.
But in between Jackson’s highlights, the Wonders scored again themselves. A 48-yard reception by Riley set up his 3-yard touchdown, allowing Brown to take a 28-13 lead into halftime.
“When they scored, we came back and answered,” Massey said. “That was good on the offense’s part.
Especially not after taking the second-half kickoff and going 65 yards on five plays to make it 35-13. Riley got his second touchdown of the game on a 40-yard reception, shugging off a pair of Erwin defenders just after the catch halfway there.
Though he was held down in the run game, Riley caught three passes for 94 yards.
Jackson returned the ensuing kickoff 80 yards for his third touchdown, but the Wonders’ defense contained the speedster after that. He finished with 122 rushing yards, but 116 of that came on two plays in the first half.
Brendan Brown’s 29-yard field goal with 8:25 left in the fourth quarter pushed Brown’s lead to 38-20 and after Erwin scored on its next drive, the Warriors touched their onside kick before the ball went 10 yards and the Wonders took over.
Jordan’s 17-yard run with nine seconds left capped the scoring. He finished with 109 yards on 17 carries.
Campbell rushed 12 times for 94 yards, while completing 6 of 9 passes for 141 yards.
“We had a lot of confidence in our passing game this week,” Campbell said. “We had a great week of practice and we came out here and it showed.”
Said Bailey: “It feels so great. As a senior, you just want to keep it going and make it all the way.”