Prep Football: A.L. Brown practice
This is the first of seven practice stories on area football teams.
Today: A.L. Brown
Thursday: South Rowan
By Ronnie Gallagher
KANNAPOLIS — Eric Morman’s first coaching job brings back memories of his high school.
“It reminds me of Richmond County,” Morman said of his alma-mater, “because of the weight program and how the players listen to the coaches.”
A.L. Brown’s second-year head coach Mike Newsome loves that, saying,” He kinda understands the tradition of football that we have here.”
That tradition continued in Newsome’s first year. The Wonders were 7-0 in the South Piedmont Conference and won the coveted Bell Game against Concord. They finished 12-2 overall.
Morman, who only last year was a talented receiver for Chip Hester’s Catawba Indians, has found a home as a Wonder. He’s coaching defensive backs.
That makes Hester laugh. Morman’s brother, Charles, was a defensive back who is now coaching receivers.
Hester said he looked to Morman, a captain, as a leader who kept everyone in line. He has no doubt Morman has found his calling.
“I learned a lot from the coaches at Catawba,” Morman said. “Coach Hester helped me a lot. I always wanted to be a coach.”
At 22, Morman is still confident.
“I can go out there and do it,” he said with a wide grin. “I’ll miss playing but that’s why I got into coaching. It gives me an opportunity to stick with the game. I’ll make the most of it.”
OLD VETERAN: And then, there’s Dan Henderson, an old pro, who has coached at Davie and Northwest Cabarrus. After years of being away from the game, he is another new assistant.
“He has a wealth of knowledge,” Newsome said. “We feel good about getting someone with his experience.”
Henderson had worked at Food Lion for 20 years and just had the Friday Night Fever.
“I’ve worn, red, black and gold,” he said. “Not green.”
• Spencer McCoy, who coached at Southeast Middle School, is also joining the staff to work with the defensive line.
WONDER DAY: On Friday, a tradition started last year by Newsome, will bring not only the football team, but the community, together at Memorial Stadium.
Pictures and autographs of the football team are available from 5-5:30. Open practice is from 5:30-6:15. From 6:15-6:45, fans can hear the band and meet members of the other fall sports teams.
A football scrimmage will be held from 6:45-7:30.
“We’ll introduce all of our fall sports teams,” Newsome said. “It’s a neat deal for our players and our community.”
Newsome decided to have an intrastate scrimmage because he says he tries to avoid injuries.
WHATEVER HARPENDEN TO?… Newsome is leery of injuries because he suffered a big one last year on Wonder Day. Center Hunter Morris broke his ankle and missed the entire season.
How’s he doing now?
Morris has signed with The Citadel and is in camp.
“Although he didn’t get to play his senior year, he showed enough talent that they took him,” Newsome said.
HE’S A CAV: Keeon Johnson is a big, strong, fast receiver and the Virginia Cavaliers noticed.
Johnson and his family noticed the top-notch recruiting effort. He has committed to the Cavs and is headed to Charlottesville.
“He made a great choice with Virginia,” Newsome said. “I think he did upset some in-state schools, but deep inside, that kid has to spend four years of his life there. I have heard great things about Virginia. He’ll do well there.”
Johnson is expected to improve on last year’s 39 catches for 795 yards.
KALIF: Speedy back Kalif Phillips is the SPC’s returning Offensive Player of the Year. He has made official visits to East Carolina and Appalachian State.
Phillips got to carry the ball more after Damien Washington was injured. He made the most of it, churning for 1,632 yards and 24 touchdowns. He also caught 20 passes for 374 yards and seven more scores.
“He’s got a few offers,” Newsome said. “Some schools are a little hesitant because his academics aren’t quite where they should be. He’s working hard to get that fixed.”
OTHER PROSPECTS: Expected to sign are defensive back J.P. Lott, who had 65 tackles and two interceptions, and quarterback Keenan Medley. Dante Pinkston could get offers. He ran only 34 times last year but gained a whopping 352 yards.
QB STATUS: The Wonders lost Brandon Eppinger last year and Medley now has the role of starting quarterback. He was the backup last year.
“He has stepped up, not only as a good quarterback, but as a good leader,” Newsome said. “In our offense, he does not lose games for us. He doesn’t have to win games. He has to be an even-keel guy.”
Newsome is pointing to the youngsters.
“We’re on a little quarterback dry spell here in Kannapolis,” he said. “We’ve got to start training these kids when they’re in the third grade.”
HOME BOY: Newsome has sold his house in Charlotte and is now in Kannapolis.
“I definitely feel at home,” he smiled. “I felt at home as soon as I got here. It’s a short drive over so I can be here more often.”
AND FINALLY: How about some Thursday Night Football?
A.L. Brown will open the season a day earlier than other area teams — on April 16 at Shelby.
The schools had to get special permission from the NCHSAA because the American Legion World Series is always played in Shelby and games start on Aug. 17.
“It took precedence over the football game,” Newsome said. “I don’t think it will take precedence over the number of people who’ll be there on Thursday night. It will be neat to see how many fans we have there. I know Shelby will show up real strong.”
The second week, Brown hosts South Rowan.