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KANNAPOLIS — A.L. Brown knew Berry’s Cardinals were going to be a handful last Friday because they were faster than the Wonders, and as a rule, speed kills.
Several Berry guys may as well have been wearing red-and-yellow “The Flash” uniforms, complete with lightning bolts and Justice League of America shoulder pads.
“The middle linebacker was about as fast a guy as I’ve seen,” A.L. Brown fullback Gabe Lucero said, shaking his head. “His quickness was pretty amazing. He must run a 4.2 or something.”
The linebacker was UNC commit Cayson Collins, a physical specimen who is almost 6-foot-3 and brings 217 pounds in a terrible hurry.
A.L. Brown coach Mike Newsome watched in disbelief as Collins chased down a jet sweep and crushed a running back.
“Not only did the guy get to the edge, he delivered a punishing blow when he got there,” Newsome said. “We looked at each other like, ‘Yeah, that was a Division I play.’
“We came into the game with the plan that we could spread Berry out and run the ball, but the one way that you beat speed like Berry has is to just go right at it.”
That meant the use of an offensive set the Wonders simply call “Power.”
A key to that set is Lucero. He has thick shoulders, a fearless nature and the brain of a future coach.
“I’m not fast,” Lucero said. “As far as our backs, I’m one of the slowest. But I’ve always felt like I could still be one of the strongest and one of the best prepared.”
Lucero, who weighs 210, runs the ball some, and he had eight carries for 40 yards on traps and counters. But mostly he was the lead blocker for carries by Sandon McCoy, Casey Walker and Jalen Cagle.
In the “Power” set, Lucero was being asked to block a lineman — either a tackle or an end, depending on the front Berry showed — but he’s strong enough to do that.
“Our offensive linemen were doing a great job and the backs were running hard,” Lucero said. “Berry’s speed was sort of working against them. They were getting to the outside so fast, that it wasn’t very hard to kick out the defensive end and seal the edge.”
Running backs coach Scott Jordan explained that Lucero was the ideal guy to be making the lead blocks.
“The trick is knowing which guy to block, and Gabe will block the right guy about every time,” Jordan said. “He will always get you tough yards. He leads. He knows what everyone’s job is. He understands X’s and O’s like a coach.”
Berry was dazzling, scoring on breathtaking passes and a kickoff return, but the Wonders plugged along.
Berry led 39-30 with eight minutes left, but the Wonders (3-1) kept pounding and prevailed 45-39.
“They just couldn’t stop ‘Power,’ ” Newsome said. “Never stopped it.”
Jordan produced the official play-count.
“We ran ‘Power’ 13 times and we scored four touchdowns on it,” he said.
Lucero didn’t score any of the Wonders’ seven TDs, but he was as instrumental in the victory as anyone.
“I do love playing fullback,” said Lucero, who was a linebacker as a junior.
Lucero will never run a brisk 40 time. Still, he’s what coaches used to call a “football player.”
“Every team probably has one or two guys like Gabe,” Newsome said. “Guys who aren’t a perfect fit for any position, but guys who are good at a whole lot of things.”
Friday’s win was big in a lot of ways. Lucero isn’t likely to forget it anytime soon.
“It was important because it was a comeback victory in our first game against a 4A team,” Lucero said. “We showed people in 4A how hard we’re going to fight in every game that we play.”

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