Friday Night Hero: A.L. Brown's Shakil Gore
By Mike London
KANNAPOLIS — You learn more from losses than wins, and A.L. Brown figured out stuff when its defense was dismantled by Porter Ridge’s fast, strong-armed quarterback Lee McNeill.
Specifically, the Wonders learned they had to get a lot quicker on the edge and a little meaner in the middle.
A drumroll please for junior Shakil “The Thrill” Gore, a lethal injection of speed.
Prior to Brown’s journey to Porter Ridge, Gore had been part of the d-line rotation but not a regular. He’s started the last two games at defensive end, and it’s not a coincidence that the Wonders (5-1, 2-0 SPC) own their first back-to-back shutouts since 2006.
“For kids at our level, the quickness that Gore brings is tough to contain,” defensive ends coach Lanny Gray said. “Yes, he’s undersized, but he still plays the run well. He has a great motor.
Out of pads, a smiling, polite Gore appears to weigh less than his listed 200. His sudden success — he had four sacks and a blocked field goal in a 65-0 blitz of Central Cabarrus — has caught him by surprise.
“Everyone tells me I look small for defensive end,” he said. “But I use my speed and I try to play my technique the way our coaches taught me.”
Gore mans the end opposite Darius Rice, a walking Bowflex infomercial who stands 6-foot-4, weighs 230 hard pounds. Rice looks like a guy who eats nails for breakfast and then asks for seconds
“Teams watch film,” head coach Mike Newsome said. “You watch us and you probably figure it might be a good idea to avoid Rice. That’s part of the reason Gore had such a big game Saturday, but Gore was good. He’s very fast, he’s relentless, and he gets after it. He believes that you might be bigger than him and stronger than him, but he’s still going to beat you. With Rice and Gore, it’s pick your poison. Whose side do you want to run to?”
Newsome, who coached 4AA title teams at Butler, says this is one of the best defensive lines he’s ever had.
When Gore took over an end position it moved veteran captain Gerald Holt inside, so the Wonders also got tougher on the interior. Jericho Rivers has been limited by an ankle injury, but he’s a horse.
Newsome also is excited about soph Kendall Holmes and said huge Anthony Shaw is “a presence.”
“When we go to our backups we aren’t as quick but we get bigger,” Newsome said.
Gore got a late start in his football life, but he’s been well-schooled. He’s the adopted son of Moses Smith, a longtime coach in the area who is now the receivers coach at Cox Mill, Brown’s next foe.
“I didn’t start playing football until the eighth grade,” Gore said. “But I always liked contact, and I guess I wanted to hit some people.”
Brown’s practices on Tuesday are “varsity vs. varsity,” which means the first-team offensive line has to deal with Rice, Gore and their buddies.
“Tuesdays are not usually good days for our offense,” Newsome admitted.
It can’t be much fun being mauled by Holt and Rice or watching Gore go flying by, but there’s a purpose.
“We’re making them better,” Gore said. “And that makes our team better.”
The Wonders haven’t sent a thank-you note to Porter Ridge yet — the wounds are still fresh — but maybe they will in December.
“Porter Ridge forced us to adjust,” Gray said. “Now we have a defense that wants to make a statement that it’s a championship defense. The way you make that statement is by shutting people out.”