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Prep Football: A.L. Brown 33, Mount Pleasant 17

By Josh Hoke
sports@salisburypost.com
MOUNT PLEASANT — As quick as the A.L. Brown Wonders have been to celebrate their victories, they seem equally as willing to recognize their failures.Sure, the Wonders polished off another SPC opponent Friday, but they seemed to understand that the final product on display in a 33-17 win over Mount Pleasant won’t be good enough to win a state championship. If that ultimately happens, this may have been the game that put the wheels in motion.“We played a sloppy football game,” Brown coach Mike Newsome said. “When you play a sloppy game against a tough, scrappy Mount Pleasant team, it’s going to be a tough ballgame.“We faced a little adversity, and they hadn’t faced any the last three weeks. Facing some adversity will tend to make you better down the stretch, and we needed a game like this to pull our heads out of the clouds. When you’re in a community like ours and everybody is telling them how great they are, it can easily go to your head.”It would be hard to fault the Wonders (7-1, 4-0 SPC) for losing focus. After drubbing their last three opponents 169-0, they may have simply been bored. However, Mount Pleasant made it apparent early that Brown wouldn’t sleep walk to another blowout victory.In fact, the Tigers probably should have been leading at halftime and were still in the game until Kalif Phillips’ 55-yard touchdown jaunt put the Wonders up 26-9 early in the fourth quarter. Phillips, who finished with 200 yards on 17 carries, opened the scoring with a 61-yard score on the game’s second play from scrimmage.Ultimately, it was the big plays like those from Phillips that doomed the homestanding Tigers (3-5, 1-3 SPC). Brown also scored on a 48-yard run and touchdown passes of 27 and 41 yards. The Wonders ran just 10 total plays on their five scoring drives.“We let down for about three minutes at the end of the third quarter and the beginning of the fourth quarter,” Tigers coach Michael Johns said of the span that saw the Wonders score three touchdowns. “When you have a letdown against a team like that, [they make you pay]. But I love what we did up to that point and what we did after that point. Take away those three minutes, and I’m so glad with the way they played for 45 minutes.”For much of the first 24 minutes, the Tigers looked like one of the state’s best teams. They held the ball for nearly 19 minutes in the first half, running 26 more plays than Brown’s ballyhooed offense. Still, the big-play Wonders led 13-9 at halftime after averaging 11.1 yards per snap.“The big plays rescued us tonight,” said Wonders quarterback Brandon Eppinger, who was 8-for-12 passing for 112 yards and two touchdowns.The Wonders punted twice and muffed a punt in the first half. Unable to keep Mount Pleasant’s spread option offense, which had 10 first-half first downs, off the field, the Wonders were unable to find a groove offensively and unable to make adjustments because they had only run a handful of plays midway through the second quarter.However, reality eventually set in for the home team and quarterback Alan McDonald, who passed for 135 yards and ran for a first half score. He was just 4-of-11 for 27 yards after the break before being pulled.“Defensively we played unbelievably in the second half,” said Newsome, whose unit surrendered just 92 second-half yards. “I’m really proud of our defense and our defensive coaches, because they gave us the football.”Eppinger and Co. did their part. His 27-yard strike to Keenan Medley, who scored on a 48-yard jet sweep in the second quarter, put the Wonders up 19-9. His 14th touchdown pass of the season covered 41 yards to Keeon Johnson early in the fourth quarter.In the end, the Wonders didn’t have to sweat, but they seemed to understand that their performance, which included three lost fumbles and 11 penalties, won’t be enough to help them realize their dreams.“Really this whole week we didn’t practice hard enough,” Eppinger said. “Coach was talking about it. It shows on game days if you don’t practice hard during the week.”

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