Prep Football Playoffs: A.L. Brown 64, Ledford 24
By Josh Hoke
KANNAPOLIS ó Whether the chinks revealed Friday in A.L. Brown’s armor are legitimate or not, coach Mike Newsome at least has something to harp on this week.
The Wonders cruised to a relatively easy 54-28 win over Ledford in the first round of the Class 3AA playoffs and will host No. 7 Weddington, a surprise winner over second-seeded South Point, in next week’s second round.
Brown has rolled through much of its schedule this year, putting up prolific offensive numbers while shutting down opposing offenses. At times the Wonders have looked invincible, but Friday was not one of them.
The Wonders surrendered 176 yards to Ledford scatback De Greene, committed 10 penalties, blew several pass coverages and had two turnovers. Their slow start allowed the Panthers to twice take first-quarter leads and meant the game stayed close for much longer than it probably should have.
ěEvery time that you can win and have some adversity, it’s going to help your team in the long run,î Newsome said.
Though the Wonders (11-1) did have their struggles, any dissection of the status quo is dangerous considering the high level of confidence they are displaying and level of play they have sustained since losing their only game to Porter Ridge in September.
They still rushed for more than 250 yards ń Kalif Phillips and Damien Washington both broke the 100-yard plateau ń and quarterback Brandon Eppinger was his usually consistent self, completing 10-of-16 passes for 172 yards and two scores.
After falling behind 14-7, Brown scored the game’s next 28 points to take a 35-14 halftime lead and put the game away.
ěWe had a mishap,î said Washington, who scored on a 45-yard touchdown run and rushed 12 times for 106 yards, of Brown’s early struggles. ěBut we got back on track and put some points on the board. We just had to make plays like we always do.
ěI won’t say that we took them lightly, but I don’t think we put enough effort into it in the beginning. I guess we were thinking that maybe they might be a pushover, but they were going to play hard.î
The Panthers (5-7), who scored the game’s opening touchdown after capitalizing on Washington’s lost fumble, were certainly playing inspired. Greene had rushed for 1,867 yards entering the game and was leading their upset charge until the Wonders slowly began to pull away.
ěOffensively we’ve lived and died on being able to run the football,î Ledford coach Chris Adams said. ě… A lot of times we run the football right at you. I don’t know how much of that they see during the season. When you get the playoffs, sometimes you see things you don’t see in the regular season.
ěDefensively they are just hard to stop. Bottom line, they made more plays than we did. But I couldn’t say enough about my kids’ effort.î
Adams was kicking himself after the game for his decision to go for it on fourth-and-1 from his own 20-yard line midway through the second quarter. The Wonders led 20-14 at the time but stuffed Greene for a one-yard loss on the fourth down and scored two plays later on Phillips’ 11-yard touchdown run. It was the beginning of the end for Ledford.
ěI was never really concerned,î Newsome said of the early deficit. ěI knew we had some weapons and once we got the ball in our hands, [we’d make plays]. We need to do a better job on special teams, but other than that, I felt really good about how they played.î
At least for one more week, the Wonders will have the opportunity to play in Memorial Stadium, which uncharacteristically had a multitude of empty seats for Friday’s game. Newsome challenged the home fans to show up in full force for the second-round matchup with Weddington.
ěIt means a lot,î Washington said of playing another game at home. ěWhen you’ve got home-field advantage, you’ve got the fans cheering you on. I know they’d travel with us, but there is nothing like playing here. And it’s my senior year, so it’s a big thing to me. I might not get a chance to wear this green jersey again.î
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