Prep Football: A.L. Brown 56, Cox Mill 0
By Josh Hoke
KANNAPOLIS — It’s becoming an all-too familiar sight after each A.L. Brown win:
Coach Mike Newsome, showing the brashness that helped him build a dynasty at Butler, struts into the post-game huddle and whips his Wonders into a frenzy. For the next few minutes, the confidence and the bravado are thick enough to cut with a knife.
The Wonders are among the hottest teams in the state and Friday’s 56-0 win over Cox Mill did little to derail their current trend and the attitude it has fostered. Brown has won three straight games by a combined score of 169-0.
This win meant a little more for Newsome, who won his 100th career game as a head coach. The first-year Brown coach is in his ninth season overall.
“One hundred isn’t what I came here for,” Newsome told his Wonders in their victory huddle. “I came here for championships.”
That message elicited a loud cheer from his players before he added, “Tonight, you sent a message.” In reality, they’ve been sending a message to each and every one of their future opponents since suffering their only loss on Sept. 9 against Porter Ridge.
“We played awesome,” Newsome said. “I couldn’t be more proud of a group of guys. We talked about focus. We talked about them not having any letdowns from the two shutouts.”
It was obvious from the opening kickoff that the Wonders (6-1, 3-0 SPC) wouldn’t give the Chargers a chance to hang around. Brown tailback Kalif Phillips ran 12 times for 183 yards and touchdowns of 43, 80 and six yards, backup tailback Keenan Medley rushed four times for 119 yards and a touchdown and quarterback Brandon Eppinger tossed two first-half scores, putting Brown up 42-0 at the break.
Phillips finished with 202 rushing yards, helping Brown gain 408 yards on the ground. Eppinger was 6-of-9 passing for 74 yards and two scores, showing once again that the Wonders have a multifaceted offense capable of putting up points on the ground and through the air.
“It feels great,” Eppinger said. “That’s three shutouts in a row. Right now we’re clicking on all cylinders. It’s great. … We’re not getting big-headed. We’re just focused every Friday night. We getting our work done. We practice hard because we know we’ve got to play Kannapolis football.”
The Wonders scored touchdowns on all six first-half possessions. Cox Mill finished the half with 98 yards and had some success moving the ball against the Wonders’ defense, but a turnover on downs, a fumble and a missed field goal doomed the Chargers’ scoring chances. Cox Mill’s first-half highlight was a 70-yard punt from quarterback/punter Arrick Hincher, a sign that this one was never really that close.
With backups playing throughout the second half, the Wonders added two scores. All the blowouts have presented some positives and negatives for Newsome, who wants to ensure that his starters get enough work and that his reserves also get some.
“The bad thing is that tonight they wanted to run the clock a little faster in the second half, so we didn’t get as many backups in as we wanted to,” Newsome said of the officials. “We need to get those guys some on-field experience.
“The other thing is we don’t get to open up our whole offense. You kind of have to close down your offense in the second half and run your base plays. There are a lot of things we want to work on that we haven’t had the opportunity to work on the last three weeks.”
It’s hard to imagine that the Wonders can get much better. However, they all seem to understand that they haven’t peaked.
“We’re playing better and better every week,” Phillips said. “It feels great, but it’s going to be something new every week.”