Prep Football: A.L. Brown practice

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 9, 2011

This is the first in a series of stories on area football practices.
Today: A.L. Brown
By Ronnie Gallagher
KANNAPOLIS — For those who thought there were going to be sweeping changes at A.L. Brown when Mike Newsome took over, they were badly mistaken.
The only change is Newsome. He brought none of his assistants from Butler when he took over for Ron Massey as head coach of the Wonders.
“That day and age has kinda changed,” Newsome said. “With the economy, a coach can’t come in and get rid of the previous staff. The school board knows teaching jobs are hard to find.”
So familiar assistants like Noah Lyon, Todd Hagler and Jeff Brandon, among others, are continuing.
“I knew we had a great staff,” Newsome said. “I’ve been pleased with the whole staff. They’re coaching the same positions for the most part. We’re way ahead of the curve from where I thought we’d be and that has to do with the assistant coaches.”

THANKS, RON: Newsome was quick to praise the man he replaced: Massey.
“We’ve talked several times,” he said. “I think the world of Coach Massey. He’s an unbelievable coach. He hasn’t been around much but I do know he’s still in town.”

A LOT OF WONDERS: While most teams brag about having close to 100 players in their program, A.L. Brown shatters all numbers.
Newsome said he is working out a whopping 147 Wonders. There are so many, he may actually have to cut.
The numbers have been there all summer as well. A total of 114 made the “Summer Warriors.” Those are the kids who came to everything during the offseason.
“They took it to a whole different level,” Newsome said. “It’s more sacrifice than work.”

GO, DAMIEN, GO: While Lyon’s base 3-4 defense will remain the same, Newsome said he was bringing his multiple offense from Butler with him. Asked to describe it, he smiled and said, “We try to make things simple and let the kids play fast.
Which is perfect for Damien Washington.
“He’s probably the best athlete on the field,” Newsome said. “He’s very, very fast and very, very athletic. He’s an electric player. It’s going to be a ‘Get the ball in Damien’s hands’ offense.”
Kalif Phillips, Xavier Stanback and Salvatore Gutierriz will also benefit.

NEON KEEON: Newsome has also been impressed with receiver Keeon Johnson. How impressed?
“He’s one of the best I’ve seen in a long time.”

AILING WONDERS: While the fans may have thought last Saturday’s Wonder Day was a success, there was some agonizing over the injury to offensive lineman Hunter Morris, a senior who Newsome expected to be a leader.
He’ll lead from sidelines after a teammate was knocked into him during the intrasquad scrimmage. He leg was bent underneath the teammate and was broken.
Other linemen have been nursing injuries: Zeb Ritchie with a bad groin and Jake Brandon with leg problems. Those two are back at practice, however.
R.J. Gill suffered a broken hand on the first day of contact drills.

ALL-STAR: Hagler got an early start on coaching as an assistant in the East-West game back in July.

THEY’RE BIG: Want a scary defensive front? Listen to these numbers.
Newsome has inherited 6-4, 240-pound Darius Rice, 6-3, 250-pound Gerald Holt and 5-10, 270-pound Jericho Rivers. Don’t expect teams to rush for many yards against those behemoths.

FIRST GAME: Shelby will probably try. Newsome’s first game is against another powerful tradition in Memorial Stadium on Aug. 19. In fact, the entire schedule has some impressive opponents.
“Coach Massey didn’t do me any favors,” Newsome laughed. “But that’s what you get when you’re as good of a program as this. People don’t want to play you. You have to go find people who are in the same boat as you. Playing Shelby — that’s two of the most storied programs in North Carolina.”

SCRIMMAGES: The Wonders get to hit somebody besides themselves today at 9 a.m. when they go to Mooresville for a scrimmage that also includes Hopewell and Hickory Ridge.
On Friday, A.L. Brown goes to Cleveland County to face Crest at Burns.