Friday Night Hero: A.L. Brown's John Bass
By Mike London
KANNAPOLIS — At a lean 6-foot-1 and a narrow-shouldered 175 pounds, A.L. Brown senior John Bass could pass for a cross country runner or a soccer goalkeeper.
He’s not. He’s a linebacker — and a good one for a 9-1 team ranked seventh in 3A.
“You’ve just got to try to play as big as everyone else,” Bass said with a shrug. “And I don’t mind being physical.”
A question mark for the Wonders entering this season was a linebacking corps that was wiped out by last spring’s graduation ceremonies. Bass was the only returner who had been on the field much at all.
“John was it as far as experience coming back, and it’s not like he was full-time,” defensive coordinator Noah Lyon said. “He played behind (East-West All-Star) Andrew Leslie.”
Bass’ story is a familiar one. He grew up watching his big brother, Brad, play on the defensive line for the Wonders. After paying lots of dues on the jayvees, he spent his first varsity year mostly watching and learning. Finally, as a senior he was plugged into the lineup on a regular basis.
“Last year, I kinda felt like they didn’t really need me,” Bass said. “But I guess every senior gets his chance.”
Linebacker requires a combination of physicality coupled with an advanced degree in football knowledge. The Wonders haven’t had many linebackers — Terrance Johnson and Quantrez Grant come to mind — who got to play early.
In Bass’ second game this season — against South Rowan — he earned the team’s defensive player of the week award and established himself as a dependable regular.
“That was a good game for him, and John’s steadily improved,” Lyon said. “He plays bigger than he looks and plays both the run and the pass well. He makes instinctive plays. He’s good at getting off blocks. Even that night that we lost (at undefeated Porter Ridge), John had a very good game.”
Head coach Mike Newsome was a fine linebacker at Mars Hill, so he’s got an appreciation for Bass.
“You’re not awed when you look at him, but he’s got a knack for making plays,” Newsome said. “Every high school team needs guys like him. He finds the football and he makes a play once he gets there. And when John plugs a gap, he makes you believe that he’s a linebacker.”
With an exceptional front, led by Gerald Holt, and a solid secondary, sparked by Kaleel Hollis, the Wonders’ defense took off once Bass and his fellow linebackers settled in.
Since SPC play began, Brown has blanked Robinson, Central Cabarrus, Cox Mill and Hickory Ridge. Northwest Cabarrus didn’t score until there were 46 seconds left and some subs had gone in.
The one challenge in the league so far came — surprisingly — from Mount Pleasant.
That game provided Bass’ biggest moment — an interception and nice return when Mount Pleasant was trailing just 13-9 in the third quarter. Brown went on to win 33-17.
“My first interception,” Bass said. “They were driving a little bit, but then the quarterback threw it right to me.”
Concord is next and its tall QB B.J. Beecher will challenge Brown’s pass defense. The Wonders will play often with their nickel package (five DBs) or their dime package (six DBs), but Bass should be a factor.
“It’s a big game,” Bass understated. “I got to play a little bit against Concord last year. I went in and lined up on the wrong side on a flare pass, but I still made the tackle.”
Like Newsome said, this guy finds the football.